Digital partnership paves way for UK-ASEAN trade relations going forward

KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) – The inaugural ASEAN-United Kingdom (UK) Business Forum held recently highlighted the importance of fostering digital innovation and economic partnership for the future of the UK-ASEAN ties, particularly in education and digital trade.

UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss said 2020 has been a challenging year but it has also been a year of greater UK-ASEAN partnership.

“The UK is making a decisive tilt to Indo-Pacific and she looks forward to deepening UK-ASEAN economic and digital relationship,” she said.

Truss said this when delivering her opening keynote virtually for the panel on ‘Technology and the Future of Work in ASEAN’, according to a statement issued by the UK’s Department of International Trade.

Truss also said she is proud that the UK is a visible and long-term partner for ASEAN.

“Our strong economic partnership has helped bilateral trade grow steadily in the past 10 years to reach close to GBP42 billion,” she said.

At the event hosted by UK-ASEAN Business Council and ASEAN Business Advisory Council, UK Trade Policy Minister Greg Hands said digital trade is the key to further strengthening the UK-ASEAN collaboration. “Similarly, digital innovation as an important catalyst for economic recovery,” he said, adding that ASEAN and the UK should work together to improve trade and economic cooperation.

Hands pointed out that there is enormous potential for ASEAN and the UK to work together on closing the digital skills gap and maximising innovative technologies.

The UK views digital technology as a driver of growth and productivity across the whole economy, and demand for technology solutions in education, healthcare, financial services, supply chains and logistics, and many other areas has consistently increasing.

Hands said that the UK has a track record of creating more tech unicorns; hence it opens up opportunities for ASEAN and the UK to work together on closing the digital skills gap and maximising innovative technologies.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asia has seen the emergence of 40 million new Internet users this year, compared to 100 million over four years between 2015 and 2019.

Speaking at the ASEAN-UK Business Forum, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia-Pacific Natalie Black said UK companies are growing their presence to support this growth, with at least 216 UK tech companies and six UK tech unicorns already here in Southeast Asia.

“There is the potential for us to do so much more together,” she said.

The ASEAN-UK Business Forum and the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit coincided with the 37th ASEAN Summit this year.