UK govt eyes SE Asia for post-Brexit trade bursts


SINGAPORE • The lone non-Asian trade minister at last week’s South-East Asian leaders’ summit in Singapore, UK Trade Minister Greg Hands (picture) had plenty of room to make the case that Brexit won’t interfere with his country’s ambitious plans in the region.

As it scrambles to roll over some 40 European Union trade deals into individual agreements with the UK, London has its eyes on plenty of additional negotiations.

Growth-blessed South-East Asia, with which it traded £32 billion (RM172.8 billion) worth of goods and services in 2016, is a priority.

“It’s really important, particularly in the Brexit context, to see that Britain is remaining the same outward-looking, engaged country as it always has been,” Hands said in an interview on Sunday in Singapore. “There’s a lot more we could be doing — our trade with, say, Indonesia is quite low.”

The UK already has ramped up resources to boost its trade with South-East Asia. Fresh intellectual property attachés in major capitals are adding to the 90 UK officials dedicated to trade in the region, said Hands. Fellow Tory MP Ed Vaizey was recently appointed as a trade envoy to the region, with particular focus on Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Hands’ meetings on the sidelines of the Asean’s summit included talks with Koh Poh Koon, Singapore’s senior minister of state for trade and industry, as well as Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita. He also met with trade representatives from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.