U.K. interested in renewed engagement with Asia . . .
Arguing for a ‘global Britain,’ British leaders have promised a historic realignment with the Asia Pacific as the U.K. seeks to reset relationships post-Brexit with some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies. How the U.K. will fit into the Asia Pacific is not immediately clear, but Britain’s opening of a new mission to ASEAN last month presents the first of many planned diplomatic efforts to bring a separate British voice into the multilateral architecture of the Asia Pacific.
Stormy trade seas ahead . . .
Perhaps most ambitiously, the U.K. has raised the prospect of joining the CPTPP, which includes economies around the Asia Pacific. One serious challenge: CPTPP member Japan already had a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.K. as a then-E.U. member, and the terms of the E.U.-Japan agreement, which only came into force in February 2019, mean that if Japan concludes better terms with a new trade partner it will lose its preferred terms with the E.U. While China may be an appealing alternative, the U.S. has intimated that partnering with China on trade will block the U.K. from a U.S.-U.K. FTA. U.S. lawmakers have already challenged the prospects of U.S.-U.K. trade deal over the U.K.’s recent decision to partially accept Huawei into its 5G networks.
Racism may challenge some long-term gains . . .
Some research has associated isolationist Brexit rhetoric with an increase in prejudice against Southeast and East Asian diasporas in the U.K. Brexit’s racist undercurrents could in fact hamper a potential U.K. pivot to the Asia Pacific and the realization of new trade agreements in the region. This could prove a long-term negative without easy solutions. Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada research on engaging Asia Pacific diaspora communities has shown that international students are integral aspects of Canada’s knowledge economy, with polling revealing continued support for diasporas’ engagement in Canada’s communities and labour. Racism in the U.K. could hamper the country’s ability to engage with Asia and with Asian diasporas to the detriment of the island nation’s economic growth.