Britain Looks Abroad

Since we were thinking the other day about inviting the UK into NAFTA -- or possibly even forming a wider Anglosphere alliance that was both economic and military -- these remarks from the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs may be of interest.  They are from the Bangkok Post, and intended for audiences in Asia, which is also where our own administration appears to believe our future focus should be located.

Our commercial relationships in the region are strongest with our Commonwealth partners, Singapore and Malaysia who between them account for a commanding majority of our bilateral trade in goods. While continuing to strengthen these important relationships we should also be looking for opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam and elsewhere. We also need to continue to work with EU partners to secure free trade agreements with Asean countries which will open up markets and boost trade. 
And lastly we need to do more to promote two-way investment. The UK offers attractive investment opportunities for emerging economies. International institutions regularly rate the UK as the easiest place to do business in Europe, with the strongest business environment on the continent and the lowest barriers to entrepreneurship in the world. 
Our relationship, however, is about more than trade and investment. We have shared interests in maintaining security in a region which straddles some of the world's most important shipping routes and to tackling together common threats such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber-crime and climate change. 
The UK therefore maintains a stake in regional security and defence cooperation through our 40-year commitment to the "Five Power Defence Arrangements". This agreement between the five Commonwealth partners of UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand is unique for East Asia and enables our countries to undertake joint exercises and to share information on issues from piracy to illegal fishing.  There are a number of separatist or other domestic conflicts within Asean and tensions remain in the South China Sea. The UK has experience which we are keen to share to help promote stability and we are already part of a small group of countries formally supporting the Philippine government and Mindanao groups in their efforts to end conflict in the south of that country.
Externally, the voices of Asean leaders will be increasingly influential in regional and global affairs. Indonesia's impressive democratisation and Malaysia's strong stand against violent extremism are examples of where the experiences of countries in the region can be of great value to the international community.
This may be the way that the future looks, especially as we ourselves are apparently going to cut hundreds of thousands of ground forces and hundreds of billions of dollars from our security posture.  That means we need to make sure that the economic interests of our security partners align with our own -- otherwise, they won't play in a game we no longer can play on our own.

Structuring an alliance that is designed to enrich as well as empower an ally suggests being careful to pick allies with broadly aligned cultures and values, as well.  The UK is clearly thinking along those lines already; so must we.

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