Thank you Stephen, Michael, I am so pleased to be here at Asia House today. I was recalling that I thought I’d been here before, and then realised that I’d only been here virtually, so it’s lovely. I’m sorry for those of you who are virtual but it’s lovely to be actually here – the sense that we can gather once again and really share our thoughts and the work that you’re doing. At a personal level, it makes such a difference.
We have got of course a phenomenal panel this morning, so many incredible experts and leaders around the world.
So today, I really want to reaffirm the UK’s ongoing commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, highlight – I hope – some of our successes and explore the ways in which Government and business can work more closely together.
Making the UK’s Indo-Pacific strategy into a clean, economic and security reality, is partly achieved, of course, by businesses creating strong ties and achieving mutually beneficial partnerships, whilst they capitalise on all the UK has to offer – from the City of London, to our world class universities and of course our luxury brands.
As the International Trade Secretary, I promoted UK trade and investment and built trade deals as frameworks for businesses. Now, as Minister for the Indo-Pacific I have the wonderful role of helping to smooth the road ahead so that you can forge these connections, both in the UK and across this great region. If rules, regulations or political decisions are getting in your way, I am here to help.
So building those stronger partnerships in this region, is a top government priority, first set out, you will have noticed, in our 2021 Integrated Review. Our new Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are currently refreshing this whole of government framework, which will set out how our Euro-Atlantic and our Indo-Pacific economies and security are inextricably bound together.
We believe in a free and open Indo-Pacific. All states have the right to ensure their sovereignty. So competition should be managed in a way that minimises strain between great powers and doesn’t spill over into conflict.
China remains incredibly important to the UK both as a trading partner and in tackling global challenges such as climate change. But we are clear eyed on the need to respond to those systemic challenges which China may pose to our values and interests.
The appalling, illegal invasion of Ukraine has underlined the interconnectedness of Europe and the Indo-Pacific, as brutally demonstrated by the global impact of the conflict on energy and food prices.
As 60% of global shipping passes through the Indo-Pacific, and more than half of global growth is projected to come from the region by 2050 – though perhaps the report will tell me something even more impressive than that – the UK must have her strategic focus facing the region.
So to ensure we can strengthen our resilience, and protect our security, we need to strengthen our partnerships with likeminded states. The Indo-Pacific is home to many who are – like the UK – committed to territorial integrity, freedom from economic coercion, and the open market.
So how are we doing this in practice? One of the first actions of our ’tilt’ was to secure ASEAN Dialogue Partner status, and we have now agreed our Plan of Action.
The opportunity that our UK-ASEAN cooperation offers for UK business is vast. ASEAN as a bloc is competitive in manufacturing and our UK economy is highly complementary given the strength of our financial services.
The UK government is actively supporting a pipeline of investment into business collaboration across a variety of sectors, including of course R&D. Last year the first UK-Singapore bilateral R&D call was launched, with £5 million pounds of Innovate UK funding. Over fifty joint proposals were received, ninety projects are being funded, supporting businesses across all parts of the UK.
The UK recognises ASEAN countries’ determination to maintain peace and prosperity across the region, because that’s how business and prosperity can thrive. We are working with Australia and the USA, to bring world-leading submarine technology to the Australian Navy through the AUKUS partnership, which will support their regional defence and security capabilities and commitments.
I re-negotiated world class, modern and expansive free trade agreements and two new ones with Australia and New Zealand last year, and are working to conclude an FTA with India.
We have new digital economy agreements with Singapore and Japan, making it easier for our companies to collaborate on tech initiatives and co-operate more closely in IT and telecoms. For example, building on recent successes like Rakuten’s decision to build a new 5G facility in the UK.
We will be the first European country to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – first off, are you impressed – CPTPP, for friends. This will not only give us access to a partnership with a joint GDP of £9 trillion, and remove tariffs on 95% of all goods traded, but we will also be able to share our legal expertise and our other professional services to help shape future trading rules.
This is particularly important when we look to the current and future challenges of governance for artificial intelligence, the use of data and cyber security.
Much of the innovation in these areas will come from the Indo-Pacific region, which is why the UK Government is so keen to strengthen our collaboration across science, technology and R&D. One of our most successful collaborations is the Serum Institute’s partnership with Oxford University and AstraZeneca. As well as unlocking access to 5 million Covid vaccines in the UK, it has led to an investment of £50 million in Oxford Biomedica and the opportunity to deliver their ground breaking Malaria vaccine, with the potential to save millions of lives.
The recently agreed Global Combat Air Programme, between the UK, Japan and Italy, will also push technological boundaries to deliver the next generation of fighter jets. This partnership will pool the expertise of our three countries to deliver cutting edge defence technology.
Innovation and collaboration are also imperative for tackling the biggest issue facing us all: climate change. The Indo-Pacific is on the frontline with many littoral communities threatened by rising seas, typhoons and millions at the mercy of drought. The UK is proud to be a global leader and convener on climate. Our businesses and universities are innovators and producers of renewable and low carbon services.
UK climate change partnerships are mobilising billions of pounds in green finance, including the UK’s Climate Action for a Resilient Asia Programme, which will support up to 14 million people to adapt to climate change.
We are also supporting Vietnam and Indonesia, to deliver on their net-zero ambitions, through the Just Energy Transition Partnerships.
With G7 partners, we want to support ASEAN and other countries to develop the future infrastructure that they need. To help achieve this, we have opened a new British International Investment regional hub, the UK government’s development investment arm, in Singapore. Through it we intend to invest up to £500 million in the region over the next 5 years. BII will partner with investors in the region to help these economies reduce emissions, protect the environment and adapt to climate change.
We have a unique and compelling offer to the region, thanks to the skills, products and networks of our people, our businesses and our institutions. We are determined to maximise their impact and delivery to achieve our shared ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, and weave strong regional ties to create a secure and prosperous future for our children and generations to follow. So let us do all we can together to make them proud of the choices and commitments we make today to protect their world. Thank you.