There is no surprise that Vietnam lies in the heart of this strategy’s approach toward Southeast Asia if taking the UK-Vietnam trade relations into account, a British trade commissioner has said.
Introducing “Global Britain” as a new foreign policy, the UK implies their “commitment to be an outwardly facing country,” Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioners Natalie Black told Tuoi Tre News in an excusive interview last week.
According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Vietnam is leading the way in ASEAN in terms of promoting free trade.
While protectionist forces are on the rise, Vietnam’s approach is taken to be a typical example of free and open trade.
And for observers like Black, Trade Commissioner for the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam’s performance is seen as a sign of potential partnership and cooperation.
“We watch the Vietnam trade relationship carefully,” she said in the interview on April 19.
“You are a big proponent of free and open trade, which is very important at the moment.
“Congratulations on your membership at CPTPP! I know that the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVFTA) is progressing very well, we are watching that closely.”
Black was referring to CPTPP as a free trade pact between 11 countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Their combined economy represents 13.4 percent of global GDP, approximately US$13.5 trillion. The pact entered into force on December 30 last year.
The potential for cooperation between Vietnam and the UK is huge, according to the FCO.
The ASEAN Economic Community is already a $2.6 trillion market and the sixth-largest economy in the world with over 640 million people, the office said.
Bilateral trade between the UK and Vietnam is growing strongly, reaching around US$5.5 billion per year.
However, this is just the beginning as London wants more UK companies to be trading with and investing in Vietnam.
Commenting on trade activities between the two countries, Black underlines that they are thriving.
“Last year our trade was worth 5 billion pounds [$6.46 billion]... Exports from the UK to Vietnam increase by 9 percent, so we are really excited and proud of the relationship,” she told Tuoi Tre News.
The FCO noted that being an economic member of CPTPP, Vietnam is an important hub in connecting the value chain in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as an excellent example of a developing country participating in a new-generation free trade accord.
This department also stated via email that the UK fully supports the EUVFTA.
This expectation represents the UK’s aim to continue trade and promote free trade alongside with Vietnam. Both countries share a vision on free trade and ambitions for an innovative economy.
But those are not all UK and Vietnam have in common, the two nations are also facing many similar economic challenges, such as the need to adapt cities and infrastructure to changing demographics, climate change, and the impacts of automation and technology on the future of the job market.
The FCO underlined that free trade has transformed many areas of the world, including Vietnam as a central plank of global prosperity and stability.
Vietnam in ‘Global Britain’
‘Global Britain’ is an ambitious strategy of the UK government, especially when the kingdom is leaving the European Union.
For “Brexiters,” Global Britain could be seen as the way the UK repositions its partnerships post-Brexit by building a new position in the world and seeking alternative markets.
To UK scholars, Southeast Asia and Vietnam in particular would be a good destination.
Speaking on Vietnam in the Global Britain strategy, Black said: “Global Britain is about our commitment to be an outwardly facing country. Southeast Asia in particular is very important for the UK government, and me myself. In my first six months in the role, I spent a lot of time travelling around Southeast Asia. And later this year, we will open a new British Embassy to ASEAN. We hope that’ll show our particular commitment in Southeast Asia.”
There are nine new UK trade commissioners around the world.
Black is in charge of Asia-Pacific, and covers North East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
According the trade commissioner, the UK has a great trading relationship with Vietnam across a whole range of sectors.
That is why the UK is interested in how it can get more research and development and innovation in Vietnam to help a lot of Vietnamese companies grow and go global.
“Here in Vietnam, I think 25 percent of your population are under 35. So I really want to build a relationship with that generation, identify the new entrepreneurs, the new business people and work with them to build relationships in the UK, because we really want to see the future in Southeast Asia,” she noted.