The UK Business Secretary has called for greater two-way investment between the UK and ASEAN, in a speech he delivered at Asia House.
Bilateral trade between the UK and ASEAN markets was worth almost £23 billion in 2014.
“But there’s a lot more we can do together”, said Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, delivering keynote remarks during the UK-ASEAN Dialogue conference this morning (Tuesday 13 October.)
“Britain is doing more international trade with Belgium than with the whole of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam combined, which is a stunningly embarrassing statistic,” Mr Javid, who previously lived in Singapore, said.
However, this year the UK Government has been doing more to open up trading links between Britain and the ASEAN markets. At the end of July, during a visit to Malaysia, British Prime Minister David Cameron launched ‘Battersea & Beyond’, a programme that encourages potential investors, many of them from Malaysia, to look beyond London.
In his speech Mr Javid urged potential ASEAN investors to also look beyond London and the South East to the northern cities of England which he described as “the Northern Powerhouse” and “a driving force in the UK economy.”
“When you’re looking to invest, don’t just look at London – look north,” he said.
“It is home to 17 million people and 600,000 businesses. In just one town – Sunderland – we produce more cars than the whole of Italy. In just one county – Yorkshire – we are creating more new jobs than the whole of France – so one thing I know for certain: the north isn’t short of enterprise,” Mr Javid said.
“That’s why I was proud to lead the first ever Northern Powerhouse trade delegation to Malaysia and Singapore in July,” he said.
Mr Javid pointed out that many key projects in London such as the Shard and Chelsea Barracks had been transformed by Islamic finance deals. “In fact Islamic finance, through Maybank Islamic, is also partly funding the Battersea development,” he said, referring to the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station.
Senior policymakers and business leaders from across ASEAN and the UK attended Sajid Javid’s speech at Asia House. Photo by Miles Willis
The UK was the first country outside the Islamic world to issue a sovereign Sukuk and Malaysia-headquartered CIMB Group were the Joint Leaders for the sale.
“We have responded to this by producing very first sharia-compliant ‘pitch book’ of 18 regeneration projects across the UK,” Mr Javid said.
ASEAN is home to more than 600 million people and one of the fastest growing markets in the world. “Here in the UK, as part of the EU, we offer access to a market of over 500 million people,” he said. “Between us we share access to a vast market, which offers new and exciting opportunities.
“The UK has created more new jobs that the rest of the EU put together. We want this business environment to help us continue to be part of the wider ASEAN growth story.”
Mr Javid, who opened Bae Systems’ new offices in Kuala Lumpur in July, said: “In 2014, the top 25 UK companies already present in Malaysia represented 70,000 Malayasian jobs. That number is growing by the day.”
He spoke about FTSE 100 education group Pearson which has been established in Malaysia since 1961. He said Pearson have “used local knowledge and international expertise in educational publishing” and with he support of the UKTI Malaysia achieved significant “business wins” in Malaysia.
UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP delivers keynote remarks to a packed room at Asia House. Photo by Miles Willis
Mr Javid also mentioned other British companies which have done well in the ASEAN region, including the UK’s largest supermarket chain Tesco and coffee chain Costa Coffee, both of which launched in the Philippines in June.
“Tesco worked with local partners SM and Robinsons Retail, two leading players in the Philippine retail industry. These partnerships also include companies from ASEAN markets already in the UK, working with British partners”, said Mr Javid.
Philippines telecoms leader PLDT Global has partnered with British company Teleena to create a mobile virtual network operation to serve Filipinos in the UK, he said.
He also cited a further example of an international collaboration, the UK and Singaporean intellectual property agencies both signing an MOU on IP financing, research and streamlining IP court processes. “These kind of collaborations offer wider potential to pursue international opportunities,” he said.
“Britain is on the rise. Inflation is down. Employment is up. The UK has created more new jobs than the rest of the EU put together. I want companies from ASEAN to be part of this exciting journey,” he stated.
He said that the British Government was slashing red tape, cutting business rates and giving tax breaks on employers’ taxes, and the Government had set out plans for the lowest corporation tax in the G20 at just 18 per cent.
But he stressed that more needed to done to develop the relationship between the UK and ASEAN markets. “In 2014, UK exports to the ASEAN markets were worth £8 billion, I want to see that figure grow,” he added.
A delegation to London of notable business leaders from Southeast Asia, organised by Asia House and the ASEAN Business Club (ABC) in Kuala Lumpur, who attended the conference, later in the day paid a visit to No. 10 Downing Street for a roundtable discussion hosted by Lord O’Neill of Gatley, the UK Government’s Commercial Secretary to the Treasury.
The delegation of business leaders from Southeast Asia outside No. 10 Downing Street
The business delegation from Southeast Asia took part in a roundtable with Lord O’Neill of Gatley, the UK Government’s Commercial Secretary to the Treasury at No 10. Downing Street
Sabuhi Gard is a freelance UK national newspaper business reporter. She has worked for a number of publications including the Guardian, Money Observer and the Investors Chronicle.