Building prosperity and supporting security in South East Asia

South East Asia’s growing political, economic and strategic significance makes it ever more relevant to the UK’s prosperity and security interests. Rapid economic growth is the clearest manifestation of South East Asia’s development, but continuing prosperity needs to be underpinned by regional stability and security.

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South East Asia is a diverse and distinct region that presents a number of opportunities for the UK. It has a population of over 600 million people across the 10 countries of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

South East Asian countries plan to form a ‘single market’ through the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community. As such, there is an opportunity to advance UK interests by taking a regional approach, in addition to bilateral activities.


In South East Asia we are:

  • Reinforcing the reputation of the UK and British products and services while helping more UK companies to do business in the region. This includes identifying and pursuing long-term business opportunities, including high-value opportunities such as infrastructure projects.

  • Working to secure a global deal on climate change, supporting the use of lower carbon energy and supporting the development of low carbon businesses in the ‘green growth’ sector.

  • Working with governments to establish the conditions to enable trade and, consequently growth, through our economics and trade policy network.

  • Enhancing cooperation with South East Asian countries on global and regional security issues including countering terrorism and violent extremism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber security, anti-piracy and maritime security, reducing and preventing conflict, settling territorial, maritime and border disputes through international legal frameworks.


Work is undertaken in the following areas:

Department for International Trade (DIT)

Total UK exports to the 6 largest countries in South East Asia were more than three times the UK’s exports to Brazil (a similar sized economy), twice those to India and 50% more than to Japan in 2012. Predominantly headquartered in Singapore and Malaysia, there are approximately 3,000 UK businesses in the region. The top 3 goods exports to the region are engines, motorcars and whisky.

Learn more about the UK Government’s 2020 Export Drive and follow the DITI Southeast Asia Twitter @tradegovukasean.


Christopher Pook, DIT and FCO Prosperity Regional Director for SE Asia, Telephone: (+65) 6424 4300 Email: Twitter: @ChrisPookSG

Economic and trade policy

South East Asian countries collectively rank as 7th largest economy in the world and by 2030 the region is predicted to become the 4th largest single market. Over 200 million more people are likely to join the middle class over that time period.

The South East Asia Economic and Trade Policy Network works with governments and other stakeholders to promote economic reforms which help boost growth and increase cross-border trade and investment. This includes working on policy issues such as public-private partnerships (PPP) for infrastructure, financial sector reform, and trade and investment liberalization.

The network also supports countries in moving towards a more rules-based international economic system, thereby helping to improve the business environment for domestic and foreign firms. This includes the work of a dedicated regional intellectual property resource, based in Singapore but covering the whole of the region.

The South East Asia Prosperity Fund Programme is one of the network’s key tools for promoting UK technical cooperation and the sharing of expertise in the region.

  • Read more about projects funded by the South East Asia Prosperity Fund Programme here.
  • The network also produces analysis on regional and national economic and trade policy trends, helping to inform British businesses of the latest developments in this dynamic region. Country-specific and regional political and economic updates can be found here.


Jonathan Turner, South East Asia Regional Director, Economic and Trade Policy, Telephone: (+65) 6424 4305 Email:

Climate change and energy

South East Asia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as increased flooding, droughts and typhoons. The Asian Development Bank predict the economic impact of climate change in the region could be twice the world average owing to the low-lying coastal areas where most of its 600 million people live and economic activity takes place.

The region matters to global efforts to combat climate change. The South East Asia Climate Change and Energy Network is working to help secure a global agreement at the Conference Of Parties 21 (COP21) in Paris.

South East Asia currently accounts for 12% of global emissions; four times its share of the GDP. Country governments need to take decisive action to move onto a lower carbon pathway. This includes reducing emissions from deforestation, eliminating energy subsidies, improving energy efficiency and finding alternatives to coal for future power generation.

The New Climate Economy report shows that economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together. The global market for low carbon goods and services is estimated to be worth over £3 trillion and is projected to grow by 4% per year. The Climate Change and Energy Network supports the development of low carbon businesses in the region.


Camilla Fenning, Head of South East Asia Climate and Energy Network, BHC Singapore, Telephone: (+65) 6424 4287 Email:

Science and innovation

The UK has extensive scientific collaborations with universities, companies and research institutions in South East Asia. For example, over the past decade there have been 6,800 research publications on health with UK and South East Asian co-authors. Collaboration through the Science and Innovation Network has focused on Singapore and the Innovation and Research Partnership agreed in October 2014 provides a framework for continued work together.

More widely, the Newton Fund is enabling the UK to use its strength in research and innovation to promote the economic development and social welfare of partner countries.

The Newton Fund is part of the UK’s official development assistance and up to £12 million a year is available to fund collaborations with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to tackle challenges like infectious diseases and food security. It is expected that this will enable genuine partnership to be formed with funding from partner countries, private foundations, multi-lateral organisations and companies.

Find out more about the Newton Fund


Nicola Willey, Regional Director South East Asia UK Science and Innovation Network, Telephone: (+65) 6424 4343 Email:

UK-South East Asia Knowledge Partnership

This alliance between the FCO and the British Council promotes the UK as a partner of choice for UK education, research and innovation through increased collaboration and coordination between the UK and South East Asia.

The Partnership facilitates UK-South East Asia university research collaborations, commissions studies to help universities identify research specialisms in the region and is creating a network of influential UK alumni across the region.


Amita Chawda, UK-South East Asia Knowledge Partnership Manager, Email:

Published 8 January 2016