Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is beginning a three-nation visit to south-east Asia as the UK looks to promote closer ties and trade with the region post-Brexit.
Mr Raab’s trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore comes the week after the UK announced the broad outlines of a free trade deal with Australia.
That deal is expected to boost trade between the two nations, and the Government said it hoped it would also help it join a regional trade agreement which would open the door to increased trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
A recent Government review of defence and foreign policy recommended that the UK “tilt” its focus towards the Indo-Pacific region in response to China’s growing influence on the world stage.
Tweeting after his arrival in Hanoi, Mr Raab said he would use the visit to discuss the new policy direction.
Mr Raab has said the shift includes a greater emphasis on common strategic interests in the region, which goes beyond trade to also include issues such as maritime security and climate change.
“Looking forward to discussing trade, security and tackling challenges such as climate change, COVID-19 and serious organized crime,” Mr Raab tweeted from the Vietnamese capital.
Just landed in #Vietnam at the start of a visit to South-East Asia visit to discuss the UK’s 🇬🇧 Indo-Pacific tilt.— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) June 21, 2021
Looking forward to discussing trade, security and tackling challenges such as climate change, COVID-19 & serious organised crime. pic.twitter.com/aXhyIJAY2I
As part of the initiative, the UK earlier this year dispatched a strike group led by the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth on a 28-week deployment to Asia that Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted was not meant to be confrontational towards China.
“One of the things we’ll be doing clearly is showing to our friends in China that we believe in the international law of the sea and, in a confident but not a confrontational way, we will be vindicating that point,” Mr Johnson said in May before the carrier group sailed from Portsmouth.
After arriving in Vietnam, Mr Raab is to hold bilateral talks with Vietnamese officials and speak at an event held by the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
A meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled after Hun Sen announced he had been indirectly exposed to Covid-19 and was quarantining as a precaution.
Mr Raab is to meet with his Cambodian counterpart, however, along with other officials in a visit that the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said it hoped would strengthen bilateral ties, as well as help “multilateral co-operation within the ASEAN framework”.
Mr Raab’s trip wraps up on Thursday in Singapore, where he is to meet with the prime minister and other officials, as well as business leaders.