MANILA – The United Kingdom is looking at free trade deals with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a bloc, or with its individual members, after it leaves the European Union, an envoy said Tuesday.
The ASEAN bloc needs to be more “homogeneous” for a regional agreement to be workable, otherwise, the UK “will look at individual countries depending on the strength of their economy,” said UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox.
“We want to be an outward-looking champion of global free trade because we think free trade is one of the best way we can tackle global poverty,” said Fox, who is on a multi-nation swing to reinforce the UK’s trade relations.
“It’s one of the best ways we can create an interdependence that also helps to maximize our security,” he told ABS-CBN News.
Southeast Asia offers “enormous economic opportunities,” Fox said. In the Philippines, the UK is the third biggest foreign investor, he said.
“We will want to see that increase. We’ll want to see that not as a blip, but a trend,” he said.
Asked about concerns raised by the EU about human rights in the Philippines, Fox said, “I think that it’s better of us to say to countries, we can do even more if we had agreements in political areas, than it is trying to penalize countries for their own domestic policies.”
Aside from human rights, Fox said the UK would also monitor corruption and the predictability of business policies, making sure that there would be no “retrospective changes.” – with reports from Vivenne Gulla, ABS-CBN News