Alongside 31 British business leaders, Cameron has embarked on a trade mission –starting in Jakarta, Indonesia. The itinerary includes Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore, and marks the first trade mission of the new government. It will also be the first time a British prime minister has visited Vietnam and the headquarters of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The prime minister said: “Over the next 20 years, 90 per cent of global growth is expected to come from outside Europe, and Britain must be poised to take advantage. That’s why I’m delighted to be taking British businesses to this vast and dynamic market, securing deals worth over £750m and creating opportunities for hard-working people back at home.”
It backs Cameron’s statement last week that the UK needed to go to “the ends of the earth” to sell its goods.
In doing so he also hopes to open up more markets for UK businesses by leveraging the the EU’s single market. During the trip, Cameron is expected to push for progress on a free trade deal between the EU and the ASEAN trading bloc, which the government suggests could add £3bn a year to the British economy.
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The region grew two per cent faster than the world on average from 1980 to 2013. Furthermore, the bloc is expected to grow by five per cent per by the end of 2015 – compared to the EU’s 1.7 per cent.
The UK government is set to make £1bn available to finance infrastructure projects in Indonesia through its export guarantee scheme. It hopes that it will pave the way for £200m worth of exports to the UK.
Ben Wright, a BBC political correspondent, has suggested that while the EU remains Britain’s biggest trading partner, Cameron has been clear the UK needs to look beyond Europe, “an ambition mirrored by frustration at the EU’s level of competitiveness and regulation”.
“The prime minster is sending a clear signal Britain must look east,” he said. “Not just to India and China, but to the largely untapped potential of South East Asia as well. By 2030, the region is expected to be the fourth-largest single market in the world.”