UK, Russia and New Zealand seek deeper trade ties with Asean

Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York delivers his keynote address at the Asean Business and Investment Summit 2019 at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi, Thailand, on Nov 3, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NONTHABURI (Thailand) - Britain, New Zealand and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) are seeking deeper trade ties with Asean, as the 10-member bloc holds its 35th Summit just outside Bangkok.

Britain's Prince Andrew said in his keynote speech on Sunday (Nov 3) that the United Kingdom "will not be able to rely on our former ways of doing business" in light of its looming departure from the European Union.

He was addressing the Asean Business and Investment Summit (ABIS), an annual sideline event to the Asean Summit.

"This business summit as a part of Asean is an extremely important event for the UK because as we either prepare or about to leave the European Union, our interconnectivity around the world is going to change," said the Duke of York.

"We will have to think and act in an entrepreneurial way. We need to diversify our economies," he added.

He also urged governments to remove some of the barriers in international trade and to enable businesses instead of over-regulating them.

The Brexit deadline was missed for the second time on Oct 31 as MPs failed to pass the new deal into law. The EU last week agreed to extend the deadline to Jan 31, 2020.

The EAEU, an economic bloc comprising Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, is also looking to more cooperation with Asean.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said as the EAEU had signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) deal with Vietnam in 2015 and with Singapore last month, it is currently in talks with "other partners in Asean" about possible FTA deals as well.

He also called for joint efforts with Asean to tackle monopolies by high-tech companies to allow a "healthy competition and introduction of new promising ideas".

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there will be the first round of negotiations next year to upgrade the Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA which entered into force in 2010. Her country is also looking for more opportunities to work with Asean members, such as through scholarship offers and sharing of agricultural best practices.

Ms Ardern urged deeper regional cooperation in light of "political uncertainty and rising protectionism that poses challenges to new growth."

"In just the past two years, new protectionist measures have affected nearly US$1 trillion (S$1.36 trillion) of global trade. Given our shared dependence on trade and our highly integrated supply chain, this is a concern for both New Zealand and Asean," she said.

The forum highlighted the important role of digital technology in trade and challenges brought about by the fourth industrial revolution.

Both the event and the Asean Summit which ends on Monday have been dominated by trade talks amid the ongoing trade war between the United States and China.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.