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UK increased focus on Asia ‘has much to offer'

Update: March, 07/2013 - 05:00

LONDON (VNS) —While the UK was not alone among EU countries in shifting its focus to Southeast Asia, Britain had much to offer the region as a partner for prosperity, British Minister of State Hugo Swire said at a Southeast Asia Forum held in London on March 5.

"We want to do even more than we have already been doing. We export more to ASEAN than to Japan or India. It is very important to us economically," he said.

The UK is also one of only three European powers that have embassies in all 10 ASEAN countries, added Vu Quang Minh, Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK and another speaker at the forum.

However, Swire warned that sustainable economic growth would only blossom in an environment where "peace and security [were] maintained". Tensions over Asian sea lanes, for example, discouraged investment and could have a detrimental impact on trade.

"With up to half of all world trade passing through the South China Sea (East Sea), events there are felt well beyond the region itself. It is important that all parties resolve their differences peacefully and in line with international law – not least to ensure that the region can make the most of its significant fisheries and hydrocarbon potential," he said.

The answer lies within ASEAN, rather than outside, he added: "This is a regional problem. It needs a regional solution."

The forum, which included diplomats, analysts, policy practitioners and military officers, sought to advance relations between Britain and Southeast Asia, with membership solely by invitation. Tri-monthly meetings will be held in the London missions of the ASEAN countries, in addition to alternating annual residential conferences at the University of Oxford and counterpart institutions in Southeast Asia.

The forum, the first of its kind, was jointly initiated by the ASEAN London Committee, Dr John Jenner from the Oxford University and the Vietnamese Embassy to the UK. —VNS

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