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“What happens in the South China Sea matters globally”: UK Indo-Pacific minister to tell

  • Minister to give keynote speech at 15th annual South China Sea conference in Ho Chi Minh City on 25 October, reaffirming the UK’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific  
  • at the OECD regional meeting in Hanoi on 26 October, the Minister will discuss sustainable investment for Southeast Asia  
  • the Minister will meet political leaders in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate fifty years of UK-Vietnam diplomatic relations  

The peace and prosperity of the South China Sea must remain a priority for all to protect free and open trade routes, the UK Minister for the Indo-Pacific is set to tell a conference in Vietnam today. The visit by Anne-Marie Trevelyan comes as the UK and Vietnam celebrate fifty years of diplomatic relations. 

At the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam’s annual South China Sea Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, the Minister will reaffirm the UK’s commitment to maintaining a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Sixty percent of global shipping passes through the Indo-Pacific, making the region critical to the UK’s security and the Prime Minister’s priority of growing the economy.  

Speaking alongside Vice Minister Do Hung Viet, the Minister is expected to say:  

“What happens in the South China Sea matters. Almost 60% of global maritime trade passes through it.  

“We seek to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific. We want to deepen relationships with our partners in the region, support sustainable development and tackle the shared challenges we all face.”   

In the capital Hanoi, the Minister will also attend the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Southeast Asia Regional Ministerial Forum and speak at sessions on encouraging sustainable investment in the region and financing the energy transition. Launched in 2014, the SEARP encourages learning and the dissemination of good practice between policy makers in Southeast Asia and the OECD. The Forum will be chaired by the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh, along with the OECD Secretary-General, Mathias Cormann.   

The Minister will then meet senior political leaders including Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Minh Hang, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang, and Chairman of the External Relations Commission of the Communist Party Le Hoai Trung.  

Discussions will celebrate fifty years of UK-Vietnam ties and focus on cooperation to address common priorities including trade and investment, security and climate change. Total two-way trade was worth £6.7 billion at the beginning of 2023, up 17 percent on the previous year and boosted by the introduction of a UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement in 2020.  

The UK is also working with Vietnam and other partners to maintain regional resilience and stability, including as a Dialogue Partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). ASEAN plays a central role in keeping the region stable and prosperous and the UK is seeking to join the ASEAN Regional Forum and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus to enhance cooperation further.  

And on climate, the UK is supporting an inclusive transition to renewable energy in Vietnam through our Just Energy Transition Partership (JETP), agreed in December 2022 and led by the Vietnamese government. Through the Blue Planet and COAST programmes, the UK is also supporting maritime communities and industries, which are vital to the Vietnamese economy, to boost their resilience against the impacts of climate change.

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