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ASEAN ministers to discuss cooperation with United Kingdom

Sok Samnang / Khmer Times Wed, April 7, 2021

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at the previous open-ended meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers in September. Supplied

PHNOM PENH – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Prak Sokhonn will join his ASEAN counterparts online tomorow to discuss with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab  how to strengthen cooperation between the 10-nation bloc and Britain.

Bilateral trade between the UK and ASEAN was valued at some $46.9 billion in 2019, while bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UK was valued at $1.057 billion that year. Total trade between the two countries fell in 2020 to $877.54 million because of the pandemic.

“The dialogue is expected to cover ways and means to further strengthen close engagement between ASEAN and the UK to address common regional and global health concerns, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ministry said.

The ministry added that the dialogue will also address economic recovery in the region and climate change.

A representative from the British embassy in Phnom Penh told Khmer Times that it is working to help strengthen the Kingdom’s healthcare system in partnership with the Asia Development Bank and ASEAN.

“The UK has been one of the largest supporters of the COVAX programme that brought Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines to Cambodia. Our total funding to support the global response to the Coronavirus pandemic in developing countries is $1.8 billion,” the embassy said.

“As we rebuild our economies, it is vital that we build sustainable greener economies. The UK, as a host of COP26, has been working with the government to set the long-term ambition for emission cuts and protecting the environment,” the embassy added.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow from Nov 1 to 12 under the presidency of the United Kingdom.

Since formally leaving the EU economic bloc in 2020, the UK has faced the consequence of not automatically being a part of previously negotiated trade deals.

The EU had more than 40 trade deals covering more than 70 countries before the UK left the bloc. Britain has rolled over the bulk of these agreements, but the EU-ASEAN free trade agreement was not carried over.

Last month, the UK paved the way for a future free trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand after signing a memorandum of understanding. The signing marked a roadmap for the first FTA with an ASEAN member after Brexit.

“By 2030, 66 percent of the global middle class will be in Asia and [the] agreement sets out our commitment to deepen ties with some of the fastest-growing markets globally,” UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said after the signing.

Last month, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in parliament that the UK would “seek out friends and partners wherever they can be found, building a coalition for openness and innovation and engaging more deeply in the Indo-Pacific”. Johnson had previously said that the country would seek out trade agreements with “like-minded countries”.

Last year, the UK announced that it would join the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan as well as Australia, Canada and Chile.

UK Ambassador to Cambodia Tina Redshaw told Khmer Times in January that her country will seek to intensify dialogue with the government over alleged human rights violations that led to the EU’s suspension of some preferential tax tariffs.

When asked about the prospect of signing an FTA with Cambodia, Redshaw said: “The GSP [generalised system of preferences] framework in place gives countries duty-free/quota-free access to UK markets. Our hope is to expand the UK-Cambodia trading partnership within this framework.”

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SOURCE – Khmer Times, Cambodia Wed, April 7, 2021

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