In June 2016, the British people voted for BREXIT in what was an historic referendum. In the immediate months following, businesses in the UK, Europe and around the world were anxious to try to understand what it would mean to them, how it might impact them. Somewhere along the way, the penny dropped that it would be business as usual for at least a couple of years. Last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered article 50, meaning that the EU and the UK had two years to negotiate the UK’s exit terms. The likelihood is that the fine details of what a new trade relationship may look like will take more years after that. Some commentators have been suggesting that it may take up to ten years for all the tedious details to be settled.
The UK is not the only country looking to cement trade deals around the world. The Republic of Indonesia, for example, is busy negotiating with neighbour country Australia and has set an ambitious timelime to conclude the CEPA agreement with the EU. The US is on and off with its enthusiasm for doing a deal with Europe and Canada has just struck its deal with the EU after eight years of negotiation. So, whilst the UK may well be a preferred trading partner of many countries and cannot enter into direct discussions with any nation until a lawful exit from the EU is agreed, there is much PR and diplomacy to be done among nations that are prioritized as the UK’s great trading partners of most promise going forward. Southeast Asia is a region of great significance. Indonesia is by far the largest country in this region and it is therefore no surprise that the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox is on his second visit within a month. It is also no surprise that Indonesia has been high on his agenda. Of course, engagement with the British Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia (BritCham) is essential to keep a finger on the pulse of British businesses that already have embedded relationships in Indonesia.
At a recent briefing with BritCham members and guests at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Liam Fox highlighted three main points that he maintains will determine the success of a new and revitalised global Britain.
First is the promotion of British goods and services abroad, especially looking way beyond the borders of Europe. The second is investment. British investment policy needs to be redirected and focused where British business enjoys most success and where the future potential lies. Third is to ensure that UK trade policy and government properly supports British export competitiveness.
Liam Fox said, “Indonesia is a fast-growing vibrant economy and remains a key Southeast Asian trading partner to the UK.” He believes that Indonesia is a country with varied and positive demographics, rich in natural resources, and with great entrepreneurial flare that will present huge opportunities in the future. “The UK recognizes the need for long term and strategic business partnerships that will prove beneficial to both countries.”
In the discussion session moderated by BritCham Executive Director Chris Wren, several business executives and the UK Ambassador shared interesting thoughts with regard to the future UK business in Indonesia. British Ambassador Moazzam Malik expressed his resolve to work with BritCham and its members already heavily invested in Indonesia and to use them as success stories that will inspire new relationships, which could serve to triple the value of trade between the countries. There was also reference for the need to review the UK’s policy as it relates to Indonesian talent that has invested in a British education and has a natural affinity for the UK corporate culture.
In support of these ambitions, Chris Wren was in the UK from April 25 to May 7 meeting businesses in eight countries and assisting them with their plans to engage with Indonesia. The roadshow was fully subscribed and Wren says, “that is its own testimony to a more strategic and aggressive