Post-Brexit, UK seeks ‘new dynamic’ relationship with Asean


THE UK is looking to strengthen its bilateral trade with Malaysia as it seeks a “new dynamic” relationship with Asean countries following its departure from the European Union (EU).

Technology, among others, is one area both countries can look into to strengthen bilateral ties, Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said.

“It is not limited only to what is traditional between the UK and Malaysia, but also involves new areas such as those in reform of the government, fighting corruption, and upholding the democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

“I am not saying we did not discuss these matters before, but these are the new areas, and I think people-to-people inter-parliamentary is also an area we can look into,” he said in a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Putrajaya yesterday.

Malaysia also encourages and welcomes more UK investors to take advantage of the investment potential in the country and to leverage Malaysia as a gateway to the wider Asean region, Saifuddin added.

He said he had also expressed the country’s continuous commitment towards the implementation of the mandatory Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification by 2020.

“In the UK, I was informed that palm oil is used for the manufacturing of food and beverage products, and therefore, Malaysia would appreciate it if the UK could increase its import of Malaysian palm oil,” Saifuddin said.

The minister believed the UK’s exit from the EU, commonly known as Brexit, is “not a hindrance” but instead an opportunity for both countries to find new fields of cooperation that would benefit both nations.

He said this after a meeting with Raab, during which the issue of dialogue partnership between the UK and Asean was also discussed.

Saifuddin said he took note of the UK’s intention to be a dialogue partner to the region and hoped that the UK would submit its formal application to the Asean secretariat to materialise the partnership.

Meanwhile, Raab said matters regarding palm oil were also discussed during the meeting, which touched on how the UK can pursue a sustainable growth approach in the field.

“I think the whole area of sustainable growth is something which is exciting for both countries because we face climate change, but also because we have the innovation, technology and entrepreneurism to come up with some solutions to that.

“With all of those and our increasing interest in Asean as a forum for us to engage with the region, I think there are so many exciting prospects for the future,” he said.

There are huge trading opportunities in South-East Asia, the British foreign secretary said, adding that the UK views Malaysia as a key partner in the region as it also shares Malaysia’s interests in promoting security, stability and the international rule of law.

He also supported Malaysia’s effort to clean up the oceans by reducing plastic use and marine debris.

“The UK’s vision is for a forward-looking relationship with Malaysia and the whole of Asean. Now that we have left the EU, we are seeking a new modern and dynamic relationship with Asean,” Raab said.

In support of this, the UK has appointed Jon Lambe as ambassador to the Asean region and established the mission in Jakarta.

“We know how important this region is and we want to work together in a partnership of equals with all 10 members for a safer, more free and more prosperous future,” he added.

Malaysia was Raab’s last stop on his Asia-Pacific visit which also involved Japan, Australia and Singapore.