Britain says ‘open for business,’ seeks deeper ASEAN ties

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Britain sees huge trading opportunities in Southeast Asia and seeks to build a “new modern and dynamic” relationship with the region’s 10 nations after leaving the European Union, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Tuesday.

Raab said Britain sees Malaysia as a key partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and that he made clear in talks with his Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, that “global Britain is open for business” following its contentious split from the EU.

He said Britain has appointed Jon Lambe as ambassador to the Jakarta-based ASEAN as it seeks to bolster ties with the region.

“We know how important this region is and want to work together in a partnership of equals with all 10 members for a safer, more free and more prosperous future,” he told a joint news conference in Malaysia on the last leg of an Asian tour that also took him to Australia, Japan and Singapore.

Saifuddin said Malaysia believes “Brexit is not a hindrance but an opportunity” for both countries to explore new fields of cooperation.

The British embassy said medical device manufacturer Smith and Nephew is set to break ground this month on its first manufacturing plant in Southeast Asia in Malaysia’s northern Penang state. The plant will create up to 800 new jobs over five years in a boost to bilateral trade, which has hit 5 billion pounds ($6.5 billion) annually, it said.

Raab also pledged Britain’s support for Malaysia’s efforts to clean up the oceans by reducing plastic use and marine debris and to work together to stop illegal shipments of plastic waste from the United Kingdom. Malaysia last month said it had sent back 150 containers of plastic waste to 13 mainly rich countries, including 42 containers to the U.K., as it refused to become the world’s thrash bin. Officials have said there are another 110 containers being held at port, including nine from the U.K.

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