Mark Field – 2019 Speech on UK and Bangladesh Partnership

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, in Dhaka on 7 April 2019.

I’m delighted to be back in Dhaka for the third time as Minister for Asia, and so soon after my colleague the Secretary of State for International Development. It’s a level of engagement that clearly demonstrates the UK’s strong commitment to our relationship with Bangladesh.

This is a time of change for both our countries. For our part, the UK is leaving the EU and seeking new opportunities around the world, building on our strong historic, commercial, and cultural links.

There are few places in the world where those links are stronger than here in South Asia, thanks to the thousands of personal connections between us. There are now some 600,000 British citizens of Bangladeshi heritage, many of them in my own constituency in London. We greatly value their contribution to all walks of British life.

Here in Bangladesh I know you are looking forward to your 50th anniversary in two years’ time, and to celebrating your many achievements, from bringing over 50 million people out of extreme poverty since 1990, to increasing life expectancy and reducing infant mortality, to boosting your economy to one of the fastest growing in the world.

We will be celebrating with you, remembering the part our country played in your liberation struggle.

I myself remember the momentous days of the “Stop Genocide, Recognise Bangladesh” rally in Trafalgar Square; George Harrison’s benefit concert in New York; and reports in the British papers about Bangabandhu’s return via London to a newly independent Bangladesh.

Today, Bangladesh can be proud of the huge progress it has made against the Sustainable Development Goals.

With the pioneering work of Grameen Bank and BRAC, Bangladesh has shown how development best practice can be applied effectively for the benefit of your citizens. Your country has been able to make such huge strides thanks to a combination of good development policy, international partnership – including with DFID – and a resourceful private sector.

Your just reward – of reaching Middle Income Status – is within your grasp. That is an exciting prospect, as are the growing opportunities for collaboration.

We are already working together on climate change – a defining challenge for our times. As a challenge that particularly affects Bangladesh, you have valuable lessons on resilience to share with the rest of the world.

We are also working together as fellow members of the Commonwealth. Her Majesty the Queen was delighted to welcome Prime Minister Hasina at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting last year in London.

Our nations are working together to tackle the evils of human trafficking, which is a particular priority for both our governments, and in which we are investing substantially.

On a practical level, we have been pleased to help improve aviation security standards in Bangladesh, to the point where air cargo can once more travel directly from here to the UK.

Something else we share is our diversity – in both Bangladesh and the UK, people of different backgrounds – Muslims and non-Muslims – live side by side. In our increasingly divided world, we must continue to promote this model of co-existence and inclusion.

I should like to take this opportunity to offer my personal condolences, and those of the British government, to the families of those Bangladeshis killed in the appalling attack in Christchurch. Their deaths, and the narrow escape of your cricket team, were yet another tragic reminder of the dangers of hatred and extremism.

But the response to the attacks – both from the local Muslim community, and wider society – has also been a reminder that people overwhelmingly reject this hatred, and instead want to bridge divides, heal divisions and promote understanding.

We shall be discussing all these issues and more during the third UK-Bangladesh Strategic Dialogue later this month, along with our shared ambitions for our future partnership. I am confident that we can achieve those ambitions, if we stay true to our democratic values.

It is often said that democracy was the worst form of government – apart from all the others; and events continue to prove him right.

You will be well aware that the British Parliament is currently wrestling with the complexities of implementing the British people’s decision to leave the EU. Some have suggested that this lengthy process means democracy has somehow failed. As an elected parliamentarian, I can confidently say that the opposite is true: it is democracy in action, with all its imperfections.

And as a friend of Bangladesh I profoundly hope that, as Bangladesh graduates to Middle Income Status, it will remain true to its democratic values.

That means holding elections that are fair, and that present voters with a free choice. Again, as a friend of Bangladesh it gives me no pleasure to say this, but I fear the Parliamentary elections which took place here in December did not meet this standard – as I said at the time. I also pressed for a full, credible and transparent resolution of all complaints.

I think we all recognise that the notion of choice is crucial in any healthy democracy. Without it, there is a risk that voters might seek other ways of achieving the changes they want. Ultimately, that could pose a much greater threat to stability than allowing them to express their views through democratic channels.

That is why it is so important to have a political opposition in place, one that is able and willing to hold the government to account and offer an alternate view.

And it is also why it is so vital to allow space for a vibrant civil society, through which the people – and especially young people – can channel their energies, and indeed their frustrations, within the law.

That means upholding Bangladesh’s fine tradition of allowing people to voice dissent and express themselves freely.

It also means allowing the media to do its job of holding the powerful to account, which as we all know is so crucial in upholding the transparency and credibility of our institutions, and bearing down on corruption. This really matters, because the strength and accountability of our institutions, and the confidence that they inspire in investors, are also crucial to our democracies – and to our economies.

The UK stands ready to help invest in those young people I mentioned just now, as another crucial element in the future success of this country.

Every time I come here, I am struck by the energy and talent of the people. I would very much like more of them to have the opportunity to benefit from the UK’s world class educational institutions. That is why one of the things I shall be discussing with my counterparts on this visit is the possibility of opening the local education market to greater competition. I am sure that this will be a win-win for Bangladesh – good for your talented young people, and good for the country.

To conclude ladies and gentlemen, the bonds of history and kinship between our countries make our relationship particularly strong and deep.

As a long standing friend, the UK welcomes the great strides that Bangladesh has made over the last half century, and recognises the great potential it has to achieve still more in the next. And as a close friend I can speak frankly and say that what we want to see is a confident Bangladesh, with strong, transparent and accountable democratic institutions.

We want to see lively debate, a vibrant civil society, and competitive elections. And we want to see this flourishing democratic landscape carefully scrutinised and held to account by a free and vibrant media. That would be a wonderful vision for Bangladesh in its second half century, and it would also be the best way for it to realise its undoubted potential. The UK stands ready to help Bangladesh achieve that potential, in whatever way we can.

Mark Field – 2019 Statement on Brunei

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister for Asia and the Pacific, in the House of Commons on 4 April 2019.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about Brunei and sharia law.

I appreciate that this issue has been of widespread concern in the House and was the subject of two requests for an urgent question earlier in the week by the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine). I apologise, too, that, given how late we sat last night, there are slightly fewer Members in the House today than there might have been, as many of them have an understandable desire to head off. I thought that it was worth making a full statement on this issue. There was no criticism of you, Mr Speaker, that you did not allow the urgent questions, not least because we were able to touch on this matter in the slightly unsatisfactory way that one does during Foreign and Commonwealth questions.

Brunei introduced sharia criminal law in 2014, to operate alongside the common law system in that country. Implementation of the final phases of the associated sharia penal code was delayed from 2014 until yesterday. These final phases now introduce the possibility of hudud corporal and capital punishments, which may include amputation for theft, and execution by stoning for witnessed adultery and anal sex.

The sharia penal code requires four witnesses or a confession from the offender for a conviction to be secured. It is a fairly tall ask, but that does not mean it is impossible to achieve. Under the common law in Brunei, homosexuality is already a criminal offence. Whippings are also quite frequently used as a punishment for a variety of offences, and the death penalty remains on the statute book—although it has not been enforced since 1992.

I want to be absolutely clear about the UK’s position on this: this Government consider it appalling that, in the 21st century, people anywhere are still facing potential persecution and discrimination because of who they are and whom they love. We strongly support and defend the rights of the LGBT+ community here in the UK and all around the world.

We absolutely oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and in all forms, and we do not believe that amputation or stoning are legitimate or acceptable punishments. Indeed, we consider them to be illegal under international human rights laws relating to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

We also note that, since the introduction of sharia criminal law in Brunei in 2014, the vast majority of crimes have continued to be brought to justice under the existing common law system, which runs in parallel in that country. However, if implemented, we believe that these extreme hudud punishments would contravene Brunei’s international commitments to respect human rights and individual freedoms. That is why we have expressed deep concerns to the Government of Brunei. I personally raised the matter with His Majesty the Sultan, the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Foreign Minister, Dato Erywan, when I visited the country in August 2018.

Last week, I wrote to Dato Erywan to re-emphasise our concern about the use of hudud punishments, which contravene the international standards and values that the UK and Brunei both uphold. Earlier this week, our outstanding high commissioner Richard Lindsay also raised our concerns with senior Bruneian Ministers, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Religious Affairs and Finance. He received assurances that common law would continue to be the primary means of administering justice and that the burden of proof under the sharia penal code has been set to be almost unattainably high, and, obviously, we welcome that.

I understand that the Foreign Secretary will speak with the Bruneian Foreign Minister later today and urge the Government of Brunei to take further steps to ensure that those extreme punishments cannot be used, and to respect the rights and freedoms of all their citizens.

Colleagues may be concerned about the potential impact of sharia criminal law in Brunei on British nationals, for whom we have a specific consular responsibility. I assure the House that our travel advice has been updated to ensure that all British citizens are aware of the introduction of the new laws under the sharia penal code. Supporting British nationals remains our No. 1 priority, and we will continue to provide consular support for all British folk in Brunei should it be required. As many Members will be aware, we have a specific responsibility towards British military personnel and their families who are stationed in Brunei, including as part of our long-standing garrison agreement that dates from the coming into existence of Brunei as an independent state in 1962. I assure the House that necessary protections are in place with the Government of Brunei.

For historical and ongoing reasons we have a close friendship with Brunei, and from my experience both in Brunei and with Bruneians in this country, I know that they regard themselves—with good cause—as a generous, friendly and tolerant people, and they are worried to see the tarnishing of that reputation, given recent press in the UK and across the world. We have an important bilateral security relationship with Brunei, of which the garrison agreement is one part, but that has never prevented us from raising difficult issues. Indeed, I believe that the strength and richness of that relationship permits us to share our views and express those concerns—sometimes openly, sometimes more in private, but always frankly—as we seek to work together to address these issues.

I am sure I speak for the entire House when I say that this Government, our high commissioner and I will continue to urge the Government of Brunei to take all necessary steps to reassure their own people, the United Kingdom and the wider international community that they are fully committed to allowing all citizens and residents of Brunei to live with dignity, and free from violence, discrimination or persecution. As an integral part of our foreign policy work around the world, we will continue to oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and promote the rights of LGBT+ people. Nobody should face punishment for who they are or whom they love. I commend this statement to the House.

Mark Field – 2019 Speech at RUSI

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister for Asia, on 25 February 2019.

Good afternoon everyone. RUSI is best-known for bringing together the world’s top minds to find answers to the questions we are all asking. This event is a good example.

In today’s increasingly fractious and unpredictable world, one of those questions is whether the existing system of global rules and norms, which governs everything from international law and regional security to trade, immigration and health, is fit for purpose.

I look forward to reading about the conclusions reached here today. In the meantime, I should like to offer a British Government perspective.

Many of you will be aware that the International Court of Justice has this afternoon released an Advisory Opinion in relation to the British Indian Ocean Territory. This not a judgment against the UK, but an Advisory Opinion for the UN General Assembly. Of course, we will look at the detail closely. But the defence facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to keep people here in Britain and around the world safe.

That is why we have maintained our sovereignty of the islands. We will continue to seek a bilateral solution to what is a bilateral dispute with Mauritius.

We are in no doubt that the Rules-Based International System, as it is often cumbersomely referred to, has been a significant force for good, particularly since the tragedy of the twentieth century’s two World Wars.

It has increased states’ ability to resolve their differences peacefully, and provided a framework for the greatest sustained rise in prosperity which mankind has ever enjoyed.

But we recognise that the system is coming under pressure from a number of quarters.

The first, and perhaps most immediately obvious challenge, comes when states deliberately breach their international obligations.

Russia has committed some of the most egregious recent violations.

Among other things, it has illegally annexed Crimea, used a chemical weapon to lethal effect in Salisbury, and continued to prop up a murderous Syrian regime, which has itself flouted international law by unleashing chemical weapons on its own citizens.

The second challenge is less tangible but equally potent, and it comes from new technologies. These are posing challenges to the system in two quite different ways:

First, new technologies are exposing gaps in the rules, such as on artificial intelligence, or challenging us to be clearer on how they apply, such as in space.

Second, they are enabling states to do things that would be unacceptable with conventional methods. Cyber is a particularly good example.

Malicious cyber activity has no respect for international boundaries and attacks are getting bigger, bolder and more serious all the time.

The objectives seem to vary – from mindless vandalism to concerted attempts to undermine democracies or steal commercial information.

For example, China has used cyber-attacks to acquire commercial secrets, in direct contravention of its bilateral and G20 commitments. We made public our concerns about this with a coalition of over a dozen countries.

The UK continues to advocate for a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace.

Last year, our Attorney General set out for the first time our views on how the world should approach cyberspace. It would be governed by the same international law, agreed norms and principles of responsible State behaviour that apply in the real world.

This was incidentally a view that had already been endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

Unfortunately, China and Russia continue to undermine this ambition, by pressing for greater international regulation in cyberspace, in particular by launching parallel initiatives that seek to bind and constrain people with new, unnecessary rules, as well as exporting their own ideologies and infrastructure which will constrain the freedom of users to enjoy the benefits provided by a free and open internet.

So it is clear that challenges to the international system are arising both from states and from new technologies.

In many states, including in the west, a third form of challenge to the international system has arisen through the election of governments that do not instinctively support it.

As a result, we see greater suspicion of the multilateral system, or at the very least a questioning approach. Tackling this doubt, and making the case for effective multilateralism, is the responsibility of all those who believe in the opportunities that co-operation brings.

The final source of pressure on the system that I want to highlight today is the shifting balance of global power. When the current system was established, largely in the wake of WW2, the world was a very different place. Since then there has been a steady eastwards shift of economic power.

In the last forty years alone, China’s share of the global economy has grown from just 2% to 15%. By 2030, China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest economy.

By 2050, the economies of China and India could exceed those of the entire G7 – the so-called leading industrialised economies.

Understandably, China and other rising powers wish to adapt the system so that it better suits their interests.

So it is clear that, for a variety of reasons, the rules based system is at the very least being called into question, and at worst is under direct threat.

At the same time, the scale and significance of the global challenges we face is greater than ever. Many of these challenges – from conflict to organised crime and from cyber-attacks to illegal migration – are not contained by borders and will not be solved unless the international community can work together.

Nowhere is this cross-border challenge more important or obvious than climate change.

Even within the next 30 years, rising seas could make some coastal areas uninhabitable. Many of our Commonwealth partners are already feeling the effects.

We should be glad that no other country has followed the US in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. But we still need urgently to raise our global ambition if we are to honour the spirit of our commitments and match the risk we all face.

I think we should be in no doubt: now, more than ever, we need a global system of rules and cooperation that we can all buy in to.

How should the UK respond?

First, we need to defend the principle of multilateralism; the idea that international agreements, norms, and institutions are essential to tackling critical global problems.

Our commitment to doing so is why – to give but one example – ships from the Royal Navy join those of many other nations to uphold the rules that allow maritime trade to flourish, most notably the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, whether through counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, or by reinforcing freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

However, I should not for a moment suggest that the international system in its current form is perfect. So, second, we need to reform some of the most important global institutions – the UN, WTO, NATO and global human rights and justice mechanisms – so that they remain relevant and retain global trust. If they are not delivering for ordinary people then they are fundamentally failing.

In the UN Security Council, we shall continue to challenge our colleagues on the Council, and ourselves, to ensure that this vital body shows the leadership the world needs.

In response to the shift in global power, we are listening carefully and have said clearly we are open to change. In that vein, we have already been outspoken in our support for India, Japan, Brazil and Germany taking a permanent seat on the Security Council, alongside permanent African membership.

We have actively supported reform of the Bretton Woods institutions – WB, IMF – to reflect growth of the Chinese and Indian economies.

In Geneva we remain committed to supporting the Human Rights Council, as the best tool the international community has to promote human rights and address impunity. We welcome the Council’s action on Burma, and Syria. But it could do more: collectively we must use the Council better to respond more firmly and more rapidly to serious and deteriorating situations, especially when there is risk of future conflict.

In The Hague, the record of the International Criminal Court remains poor. We are working closely with our partners to find paths to reform.

The United States, among other nations, has made clear that the WTO is not working. We believe that China, as the world’s largest goods trader, has an important role to play in the necessary debate on WTO reform, and we played an important role in increasing China’s voting weight in the World Bank last year.

We share some American concerns over Chinese trade practice, but we believe any action to remedy this must be WTO compliant. We want the WTO to defend free trade and a level playing field as a route to economic growth for all.

To conclude – the challenges to the international system are diverse, but the global threats we face are significant.

The Rules-Based International System is still the best means we have to respond to these threats, but it needs to reform and adapt if it is to remain effective and relevant.

We are determined to help shape this change and to stand up for shared interests and values.

This means fighting to strengthen and defend the values that matter to us most: human rights, peaceful resolution of disputes and the rule of law.

It means using all our influence as a permanent member of the Security Council, the G7 and the G20, a leading member of NATO and the Commonwealth, a major development and humanitarian donor, and a champion of human rights.

It means working with like-minded international partners to ensure that the Rules-Based International System remains a force for good in the 21st Century and beyond.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what we are committed to do.

Mark Field – 2018 Speech on Disinformation

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, on 14 December 2018.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to welcome you to Westminster – not just the heart of my Parliamentary Constituency, but also the beating heart of political life here in the United Kingdom.

Some might say that heart has been having some palpitations of late: I’ll come back to Brexit later.

Thank you to Alex, Vincenzo and Rytis for the warm welcome and for setting the scene for today’s seminar.

The Club of Venice has been bringing Government communicators together for more than 30 years.

Over that time, wave after wave of technological innovation has opened new lines of communication that have transformed how governments talk to their people, and how people access information.

We have lived through a communications revolution that has brought the people of the world closer together, in a web of online networks, encrypted groups, and bulk data sets; connected to one and other by common interests and common causes; and speaking a new universal language punctuated with ‘likes’, emojis and retweets.

It has been a revolution that has democratised and accelerated the spread of information.

It has moved at a pace that has seen our libraries, our newspapers, and our broadcasters challenged as never before.

In the process, they have found themselves ceding ground, influence and users to unmoderated online chambers of social discourse.

For those of us in this room with an interest in getting messages across to the public, this revolution has required us to rethink what we do, and how we do it.

Without doubt it has been a time of unparalleled opportunity.

It has put politicians just a finger-tap away from putting information directly in the hands of the people we represent.

The challenge

Of course it is not just those of us with a keen interest in government, democracy, and society that have been given these new opportunities.

The same opportunities have also been made available to those who wish to chip away at the truth, at the strength of our democracy, and at the cohesion of our societies.

They too have learnt to harness new technologies for their own ends. We saw an example of the deliberate, mal-intentioned distortion of facts in the aftermath of the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack last year.

Genuine images were circulated with misleading commentary, asserting that a woman wearing a hijab was callously ignoring injured victims.

In fact, she was texting her family to let them know she was safe.

Disinformation is not a new threat. As far back as 1688, Great Britain’s Privy Council released a proclamation against the spreading of false news.

Disinformation may be as old as the hills, but the ongoing technological revolution has built a new stage for it; and for those who wish to use it to attack our democracies and our alliances, and to corrode the respect for diversity that binds our societies together.

Designed to deepen divisions and cast doubt on truth, disinformation uses social media algorithms to identify susceptible targets and amplify false information.

It seeks an audience looking for confirmation of their worst fears and views, crowding out new voices and distracting from alternative perspectives.

Governments across Europe have been subjected to disinformation, sown on distant computers, by those intent on fanning discord and division within our societies.

We have suffered at the hands of certain states that routinely use disinformation as a tool of foreign policy.

We have seen time and time again how easy it is to spread false or manipulated information to people around the world.

There are countless examples of how the Kremlin has done this to destabilise its perceived enemies, and disguise its own actions.

Disinformation accompanied Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea; their destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine; and their response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against innocent civilians.

And more recently, in the aftermath of the Salisbury attack in March, when we repeatedly asked the Russian Government to account for what had happened, they responded with obfuscation and lies, spewing out dozens of ludicrous so-called explanations.

Whether in Ukraine, Syria or here in the UK, disinformation is being used to undermine the rules based international system and to attack our liberal democracies.

Protecting ourselves from it is one of the most pressing international issues of our time.

As our Prime Minister recently said “The threats we face do not recognise the borders of individual nations or discriminate between them.”

We want to work with industry, civil society, academia and our international partners to detect, disrupt, expose and refute disinformation.

This shall continue to be a central part of our cooperation with European partners long after we have left the European Union.

Responding to disinformation

Countering hostile state disinformation demands a concerted response on many levels, and the UK is at the forefront of a growing international consensus on the need to take action against it, regardless of source or intent.

In the UK we are taking a ‘whole of society’ approach to tackling disinformation, drawing on the experience and lessons learned of our Nordic and Baltic partners.

We shall focus this work around three key objectives:

First; to deter the use of disinformation by exposing and disrupting those who use it against us.

Second; to increase transparency and accountability online to make it harder and less rewarding to spread disinformation.

Third; to make people more resilient to disinformation through education and empowerment.

To achieve these objectives we are working with tech providers, tech users and academics, to better understand the impact of disinformation, and to improve education and digital literacy programmes. We are also considering regulation.

Internationally we are investing £100m in countering disinformation. This work includes providing important capacity-building support to independent media. One of the best antidotes to disinformation is a robust, free, vibrant and varied media landscape.

There is less space for disinformation to take hold where there is trust in a wide and robust national and local media.

Independent media and investigative journalism have a crucial role to play in challenging disinformation when it occurs, and helping to educate audiences to make them more resilient to disinformation.

However, journalists need more support from us, because in too many parts of the world their work puts them in great danger.

Globally, threats to journalists are at the highest level in 10 years.

Last year, 78 journalists were killed, and over 300 imprisoned for no other reason than doing their job. Speaking in 1949, Sir Winston Churchill said,

“A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize”

Building on our proud history of a vibrant and independent media, our Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that he will make the promotion of Media Freedom a priority over the coming year.

We commend the work of our international partners, those of you represented here today, to counter disinformation.

We want to work with all of you to put this issue at the forefront of international discourse.

We shall host a major international conference next year to mobilise a global consensus behind the protection of journalists.

We shall support Media Freedom projects and we shall expand the number of journalists receiving training, including in newsrooms here in the UK.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, faced with these threats to our democracies and our freedoms, we must come together to protect our shared values.

As our Prime Minister has said, “The fundamental values we share – respect for human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy and equality – have created common cause to act together in our shared interest.”

All of you, as communicators, play an important role – not only in shaping the public’s view of what governments do, but also in informing government policy. You are needed now, more than ever.

Let us come together to combat the threat of disinformation, to build public trust in our democracies and our values, and to strengthen independent media, as the guardians of those values.

Thank you.

Mark Field – 2018 Speech at the Future of ASEAN-UK Cooperation

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign Office, in Singapore on 8 November 2018.

Good morning and thank you to Chatham House and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs for hosting this expert gathering. I know a great deal of time and effort has gone into arranging it, and it could not have been better timed.

The UK is making greater efforts than ever to broaden our international horizons and deepen our global partnerships, preparing the way for a new approach once we have left the EU. Strengthening our relationship with the ASEAN community is a really important part of that, so I am delighted to have the chance to hear your thoughts on how we might go about it.

There is an excellent range of topics on your agenda today. Over the next 15 minutes or so I should like to touch on just some of them, to offer some food for thought.

Since being appointed as Minister for Asia and the Pacific almost 18 months ago I have made it my personal mission to visit as many countries of the region as humanly possible, and to engage, face to face, with my ministerial counterparts.

Within the first year or so I achieved my key ambition of visiting all ten members of ASEAN at least once.

This is already my second visit to Singapore, and over the course of two frantic weeks in August, I visited Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

In Jakarta I set out our ‘All of Asia’ policy, through which we are engaging actively with all countries in the region, working with them to promote regional security, to build prosperity, and to strengthen the values which underpin the links between our people. Today I hope that we can substantively build on this work – as I say, taking the opportunity to discuss and explore together the ways in which the UK can remain the strongest of partners to ASEAN – maintaining and strengthening our common areas of interest – after we leave the EU.

Our vision is of a genuine deep, comprehensive partnership – one that builds up our already excellent cooperation right across the board. I will say more about that in a moment. It is really up to all of us – the UK and all the ASEAN community – to decide how we go about it.

I would like us to be really ambitious – to see where the UK-ASEAN relationship is now, to imagine how it might look in the future and to chart a course towards that goal.

Let’s start with education – for the university academics among you, surely a subject close to your hearts.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how open ASEAN as a whole is to education opportunities of all kinds.

I am pleased to say that UK institutions and qualifications seem particularly popular: more than 42,000 students from the region attended UK universities in 2016/17.

That includes some 8,000 Singaporeans and 17,000 Malaysians.

In fact Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand all rank in the top 10 countries from outside the EU for sending students to the UK.

However, more and more of your young people do not even need to leave home to get UK qualifications. Approximately 130,000 young people are pursuing UK certified higher education courses right here in the region.

Respected British universities such as Nottingham, Newcastle, Herriot Watt and Coventry are all expanding their partnerships here.

I saw evidence of this first-hand in Vientiane earlier this year, when I had the pleasure of opening a new International Education Center at Panyathip School, hosting not one, but three UK institutions: Nottingham University, the Wimbledon School of English, and the Royal Academy of Dance.

It showed that our links are not just at tertiary level education – more and more schools across the ASEAN region are now teaching the British international school curriculum.

Education is a significant part of our relationship with ASEAN and I can see it really taking off over the coming years.

The same goes for research and innovation – where the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ offers huge opportunities for collaboration.

Some of you may be familiar with the work that has flowed from our Newton Fund for science and innovation, which has been running since 2014.

The UK is investing £735 million in the Fund worldwide through to 2021, with matched funding from partner countries. In ASEAN we are partnering with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and these partnerships are delivering results.

They have already produced some outstanding research on sustainable rice production and food security, and we are working together to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities, improve forecasting of extreme weather, and tackle common diseases.

The range of our collaboration is truly out of this world. Through our Space Agency we are supporting research into the use of satellite technology to help our partners tackle problems ranging from illegal fishing in Indonesia to early warning of dengue outbreaks in Vietnam, and reducing illegal logging in Malaysia.

It may sound like science-fiction, but together with Singapore we are now firmly pushing the frontiers of ‘science fact’, with a £10 million joint initiative to build and fly a satellite quantum key distribution test-bed.

I won’t try to explain in detail what that is, I can’t claim to match Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s knowledge of quantum theory .

However I can say that it is a significant commitment to cyber technology and will open up a global market estimated to be worth more than £11 billion over the next ten years.

Research and innovation is already an integral part of the UK-ASEAN relationship and this latest project demonstrates just how far-reaching the opportunities could be in the future.

Trade is another area where I see huge scope for cooperation and two-way growth – and for using our departure from the EU as an opportunity for us all to redesign and strengthen our existing relationships.

It is something that our Prime Minister Theresa May was keen to emphasise at the recent Asia Europe Meeting in Brussels, which I also attended. Take our investment in Singapore for instance. Over 4,000 British companies have a presence here, employing over 50,000 people.

The UK is the second largest European investor in Singapore, and sixth largest overall. There is a similarly positive picture across the ASEAN region.

In 2017, trade between the UK and the region was worth over £36.5 billion.

The UK remains ASEAN’s second largest source of investment, and we invest three times as much as Germany or France in wider Southeast Asia.

UK goods exports to ASEAN grew by 19.9% between 2016 and 2017. Our overall exports were more than double those to India.

More than ever, we are urging and supporting UK companies to take advantage of opportunities overseas, and we are attracting inward investment into the UK too – not least for UK Smart Cities projects and align ourselves with the ASEAN Smart Cities Network.

We are also helping countries of the region to make themselves more attractive to foreign investment – using our Prosperity Fund programmes to cut red-tape, tackle corruption and promote a fair business environment. From within the EU we have been a cheerleader for its Free Trade Agreements with Singapore and Vietnam.

We are determined to ensure that these trade benefits are transitioned into bilateral arrangements immediately after we leave.

Alongside our bilateral agreements, we are also exploring accession to the CPTPP and ways to further develop trade and investment between us. We are doing all this with one goal in mind, to strengthen our partnership economically, diplomatically and politically with ASEAN.

Alongside all these areas of positive collaboration, we recognise that there are also challenges.

I make no bones about our concern over the direction some countries are taking on democratic values or human rights.

The ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines and the recent flawed elections in Cambodia are two such causes of concern.

The despicable treatment of the Rohingya community by the Burmese military also remains high on the agenda of the UK and indeed many other nations the world over, not least here in South East Asia.

We do not hide our views on these subjects or row back from our firm commitment to uphold a rules-based international system, upon which prosperity, security and freedom for us all depends.

We continue to encourage others to remain equally committed, and my colleagues and I continue to press for positive change. We will continue to do so after we leave the EU.

Of course many of the challenges we face are shared, and they are challenges that we shall face together, because the UK is committed to the security of this region.

We demonstrate that commitment in a number of ways – including our permanent military presence in Brunei, our participation in the Five Power Defence Arrangements and the deployment of Royal Navy ships to the region – three this year alone. All of them have participated in joint exercises – a key part of our support for the development and integration of the region’s defence capabilities and our commitment to help address future security challenges.

Even in the defence sphere, our education links shine through. In the last five years, just under one hundred officers from ASEAN member states have graduated from UK defence establishments.

Today, the active Service Chiefs in four ASEAN countries studied in Britain.

It is not all ships, planes and people in uniform though. Our security cooperation is much broader than this, and cyber is a key element of it.

As you may know, Singapore, as the Chair of ASEAN, is spearheading an initiative to strengthen the cyberspace capabilities of all ASEAN states.

I am delighted that they have invited us to take part – we will be the only non-Dialogue Partner involved.

Counter Terrorism is another important element of our security collaboration.

We have established a regional Counter-Terrorism Unit to enhance the links between agencies and governments.

We have done extensive work in this area with Indonesia. We were a critical part of the JCLEC process that led to hundreds of arrests – by Indonesian officers drawing on skills learned from the UK.

I hope that I have given you a good idea of the breadth and depth of the UK’s engagement in ASEAN.

Not only that – I hope you have also got a sense of our ambition for our future relationship. I have seen first-hand what it is like now, and I know there is a huge appetite from both sides to maintain and strengthen this precious relationship after we leave the EU.

I believe we can afford to think ambitiously and I hope today’s discussions allow you to do that.

I wish you a productive day and I look forward to hearing how you have got on when I come back this evening!

Thank you.

Mark Field – 2018 Speech in the Philippines

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in the Philippines on 17 August 2018.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me on my first visit to the Philippines as UK Minister for Asia.

More than 70 years after the bombs, artillery and guns of World War II fell silent, academics and historians continue to debate the number of people killed.

Some put the number of deaths worldwide at 45 million. Others believe the number of Chinese casualties alone may have exceeded that number. The people of the Philippines undoubtedly paid a very dear price, with up to one million Filipinos killed – around 1 in every 16 people – considerably more than the losses we suffered in the UK.

In the aftermath of such a devastating conflict, the instinctive response across much of the globe was to set about building a new set of rules and cooperative institutions, to reduce the risk of such large scale slaughter happening again.

The United Nations was the clearest demonstration of the global will to do things differently – not only between states themselves, but also between states and their people.

The Holocaust had made an absolutely compelling case for the need to strengthen the rights of individuals.

But it was also understood that the vicious brutality meted out by the occupying forces in Europe and Asia was in part a consequence of regimes with unchecked power at home.

It was understood that if a state did not respect the diversity of its people and their thoughts, beliefs and wishes, it was likely to be more unpredictable and dangerous beyond its borders.

So countries came together at the United Nations not only to draw up the rules, and the checks and balances of international peace and security, but also the rights and freedoms of all people, and each state’s responsibility to guarantee those rights.

Over the last 70 years that international rule book has been strengthened and broadened within the UN, and through an increasing range of multilateral and regional organisations.

The global rule book now deals with so much more than the weapons we have and what happens when we misuse them.

It deals with how we trade together, and what happens if we renege on those terms. It helps protect the assets that our countries share – our air, our water, our oceans. It helps protect our wildlife, and our national heritage – things that make our countries unique.

This rules-based system would have been unimaginable just one hundred years ago, when war and forceful occupation were still considered a legitimate approach to foreign policy.

Among other things, it has led to a reduction in the proportion of people living in poverty around the world from over 50% in the 1940s, to less than 10% today.

It is a rule book that has protected the sovereignty of the Philippines after centuries of occupation and enabled you to grow as an independent country.

Taken together, this Rules Based International System has had a hugely positive impact on global security and prosperity, protecting people and countries, and helping them to achieve their potential.

This is why the United Kingdom is working so hard with its international partners to cherish and protect these rules. And this is why we regret that the Philippines has decided to leave the International Criminal Court – an institution that we consider to be a cornerstone of the Rules-Based International System, because it makes all people safer. We believe that it needs the support of the whole international community and we are sure that the Philippines could make a great contribution.

Defending the Rules Based International System

And it is why we want to work with countries to tackle global challenges and build a more prosperous and stable future for us all.

Supporting and strengthening the Rules Based International System, so that countries and individuals have the freedom, security and mechanisms to prosper, is what drives our foreign policy.

That is why we are the only one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that spends both 2% of our GDP on defence and 0.7% of GNI on development.

We take the responsibility of permanent membership incredibly seriously. That means being active across a huge range of issues.

We have played a prominent role – through the UN and EU – in strengthening and enforcing sanctions against North Korea to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

We work to address crises, by providing humanitarian support for those caught up in them and by supporting efforts to end conflicts; we work with partners across the globe to tackle issues as diverse as violent extremism, sexual violence in conflict, human trafficking and modern slavery, and the illegal wildlife trade; and we campaign to promote girls’ education.

In the past five years alone, UK aid has protected over 67 million children against a range of preventable diseases.

If you look at the current humanitarian disasters – in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Northeast Nigeria – you will find that the three biggest donors are the US, the UK, and the EU.

We have led financial contributions to address the crisis facing the Rohingya people of Burma, with £129 million of aid given to date. I saw the real difference this is making on the ground when I visited Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh a few weeks ago.

And you may not know that after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013, the UK government’s £77 million contribution to the humanitarian support effort was greater than any other government in the world – representing 14% of global contributions.

Perhaps more remarkably, that figure was topped by donations from the British public of nearly £100 million.

Global Britain strengthening the Rules Based International System
Despite this track record, some commentators have chosen to interpret the decision of the British people to leave the European Union as a sign of our retreat from our global role.

This could not be further from the truth – being more internationalist is at the core of our vision for a post-Brexit Global Britain, and freeing ourselves of certain shackles that came with EU membership will enable us to realise our vision. Nowhere more so than in our approach to international trade.

Increasing trade, economic activity and employment is the best way to improve the lives of the world’s poorest; just look how more that 500 million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in China since the 1980s.

No region is more exciting in terms of the potential to increase trade than here in the Indo-Pacific; you have a third of the global economy, and around two thirds of the global population.

The Philippines is a good case-in-point, with 6.7% GDP growth last year, and the potential for more to come. That is why we are busily working to be more present, more active, and more engaged in this region.

I have visited around twenty countries across the region in my first year as Minister. In each one I have made the case for closer links between our governments, our businesses, and our people. We want to be a partner and friend with good relations with all the countries of this region – not choosing between them.

Our relationship with China is crucial now and it will be in the future. As will our deep and long-standing partnerships with Japan and India. And of course, those with Australia and New Zealand. But we need to do more.

So I can say this morning that after leaving the EU, we will be seeking to strengthen our relationship with ASEAN as an institution, and we will endeavour to further strengthen our relationship with the Philippines, building on longstanding relations which date back to Sir Francis Drake’s landing in Mindanao in 1579.

We want to work in partnership to uphold and strengthen the Rules-Based International System in Asia, as elsewhere.

That is why we have stood shoulder to shoulder with Japan, South Korea and other countries in denouncing nuclear adventurism by North Korea. It is why we stand up for the rights of the people of Hong Kong and for the principle of – “One country, two systems”.

And it is why in the South China Sea we urge all parties to respect freedom of navigation and international law, including the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

It is critical for regional stability, and for the integrity of the Rules-Based International System, that disputes in the region are resolved, not through force, militarisation or coercion, but through dialogue and in accordance with international law.

The UK is backing the Rules Based International System in Asia through our security cooperation as well as our humanitarian support and diplomacy. As one of the few countries able to deploy air power 7,000 miles from our shores, we recently sent our Typhoon fighter jets to train with Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia for the first time.

We have also deployed two Royal Navy ships to the region – HMS Sutherland and Albion, and soon also HMS Argyll – meaning we will have an almost unbroken naval presence in the strategically critical Asia-Pacific this year.

One of the first missions of our two vast new aircraft carriers will be to sail through the Straits of Malacca, the route that currently accommodates a quarter of global trade. Not because we have enemies in this region – but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.

Challenges to the Rules based International System

There are unfortunately some leaders who are intent on flouting and undermining the Rules Based International System.

In recent years many countries have fallen victim to Russian state aggression, destabilisation or interference.

There is no plausible alternative explanation than that the Russian state was responsible for the chemical attack against a former Russian spy in the English town of Salisbury in March, using Soviet-developed Novichok. It was the first time since the Second World War that a nerve agent had been deployed in continental Europe.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons agreed a UK proposal last month, which should strengthen the ban on chemical weapons and prevent impunity for their use.

We were grateful to the 82 countries that supported the measures to reinforce a key plank of the Rules Based International System. We were disappointed that the Philippines, and 23 other countries, were not among them.

Conclusion

That brings me to my final point. The Rules Based International System is a network of agreements and institutions that requires our support if it is to continue to protect us and make us more prosperous.

If we stand back – perhaps in the hope of some possible short term gain – we will all be worse off in the long run.

The System is not the property of any one country or alliance of countries – but something that belongs to all of us. It has been built with the shared wisdom gleaned from our shared history.

That history has taught us that too often people have been held back by repression, corruption or authoritarianism. They have not had the opportunities, freedoms and protections to make the most of their talents and hard work.

In the future, as technology increasingly spreads opportunity, the societies that succeed will be the ones that enable all their citizens to fulfil their potential.

The Rules Based International System is the best friend for any person or country with unfulfilled potential. It is the duty of all of us to defend it. It is what I will work for. It is what the UK will work for. We hope you will too.

Mark Field – 2018 Speech at Global FinTech Investor Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, at the Global FinTech Investor Forum on 21 March 2018.

Thank you Nikhil and thanks to your team here at the London Stock Exchange for the opportunity to address so many Fintech pioneers.

FinTech sits at a crossroads of my professional responsibilities and my personal interests:

As Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, I have responsibility not only for nurturing our relationships with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, but also for international economic diplomacy, including the financial services sector. As MP for the constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster for the last 17 years, I know better than most just how important the City is for this country’s economy, and just how important innovation is to maintaining the UK’s global prominence in financial services.

And as a politician and father, I am very conscious that the success and prosperity of our children’s generation will in large part be determined by how we seize the opportunities that new technologies offer, and how we adapt to the disruption they cause.

The current generation of Fintech entrepreneurs in the UK has risen to the challenge; continuing a long-standing tradition of financial innovation in this country. They have come a long way in a very short time. The dynamism and growth of the sector is envied by much of the world.

I would like to think that this Government, through being responsive to the needs of the sector, and by creating the conditions in which the sector can thrive, has also played its part in this success story.

So today I want unashamedly to make the case for London and the UK as a pre-eminent global hub for financial services in this fast evolving digital age; and I want to demonstrate how this Government is backing UK Fintech all the way.

Emergence of Fintech

New technologies are transforming lives in ways that could not have been imagined even a decade ago. They are connecting people who used to be isolated; they are democratising information, education and opportunity; and they are creating jobs and industries that didn’t previously exist.

Innovation has been a big part of the success of the UK’s financial services industry, ever since it was unleashed by the reforms of Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s. Its pioneering of Islamic and Green Finance is a case in point. In 2013, London was the first capital of a non-Muslim majority country to host the World Islamic Economic Forum. Soon after that we became the first Western nation to issue a sovereign sukuk – or Sharia-compliant bond.

Today, this place, the London Stock Exchange, is seen as the global hub for these bonds, with 65 issues to date – worth over $48 billion dollars. In 2017, the Financial Conduct Authority authorised the first Sharia-compliant FinTech company – Yielders – and more are expected to follow. The City of London is also a natural hub for Green Finance, offering access to unrivalled liquidity and professional services with expertise in the sector.

The falling cost of renewable energy, in part driven by the competitive investment environment, and demand for ethical investments in centres like London, is driving the global shift to a low carbon economy at a faster pace than many had imagined.

That same foresight which made London an early adopter of sukuk and green finance also meant it was quick to identify how new technologies could be used to deliver new financial services, and refine old ones. We have rapidly emerged and grown into a Fintech superpower.

I could not put it better than Deloitte, who last year ranked London as the world’s best FinTech hub, and said – I quote:

London has the world’s largest financial services sector, supported by a booming tech sector. The ecosystem has the “Fin” of New York, the “Tech” of the US West Coast and the policymakers of Washington, all within a 15 minute journey on public transport. These factors make London one of the greatest connected global cities in the world, with the key ingredients for digital success: capital, talent, regulatory and government support and demographic diversity.

You will have heard my ministerial colleague Robert Jenrick talk about some of these ingredients for success this morning. I am going to focus on two more: first, the regulatory environment, and secondly, what this Government is doing to support UK Fintech thrive beyond these shores.

Regulatory environment

The success of the UK’s FinTech industry has been enabled and supported by a policy and regulatory environment which has innovated in almost equal measure to the industry itself.

In the Financial Conduct Authority, we have the first regulator in the world to introduce a regulatory “sandbox” in which businesses can test products and ideas in a live environment. Such was its success that it has been widely replicated elsewhere.

Alongside this inspired regulation, HM Treasury have been on the front foot in promoting an environment here in the UK in which innovative businesses can apply technology to deliver efficiencies and benefits to both business and consumers. The roll-out of the world-leading Open Banking-standard enables the sharing of data making it easier for consumers to use third parties to access their accounts to improve financial information and payment services, allowing greater competition and security.

HMG promotion of UK Fintech

To maintain the UK’s position as a world-leader in FinTech, the Government has entered into bespoke agreements with some of the key Fintech early adopters and markets. These agreements will reduce barriers to trade and link companies in both nations with opportunities for international trade and investment. We call these agreements ‘FinTech Bridges’.

We began by building bridges eastward, to some of the most dynamic economies on my patch as Minister for Asia and the Pacific. We already have FinTech Bridge agreements in place with Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Republic of Korea. These are soon to be joined by a fifth – with Australia.

Each Bridge is governed by an agreement signed by the Financial Conduct Authority and establishes links between government, regulators and the private sector, with the aim of attracting international capital investment into the UK’s FinTech sector and foreign direct investment as international firms choose the UK.

The UK’s comparative advantage for investing in FinTech is not just about regulation. As I am sure you know, this country boasts one of the most competitive business environments in the world, and consistently ranks in the top 10 for ease of doing business.

We are a low taxation economy with corporation tax that is the lowest in the G20 at 20% and will be reduced to 17% by 2020. The UK also offers tax incentives for R&D, low social taxation, a competitive location for holding companies and the most flexible labour regulations in Europe.

Conclusion

To conclude ladies and gentlemen, it is not surprising that the FinTech sector is thriving here in the City of London. It has all the right ingredients:

Not only is it a financial capital of the world, the largest exporter of financial services, and an unparalleled centre of excellence, offering stability, predictability, ingenuity and integrity. It also boasts talented software developers, supportive regulators and a reliable supply of investment finance.

That is why we in Government never miss an opportunity to promote the qualities of the City, and the UK’s financial services sector more broadly – including its particular FinTech strengths – both at home and overseas.

And that is why I would strongly encourage potential investors here today to come on board. I am confident that the growth we have seen in the sector so far is just the start. London is leading the way: come and join us.

Mark Field – 2017 Speech at the Asian-European Meeting

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, at the Asian-European Meeting held in Myanmar on 20 November 2017.

Introduction

It is an honour to represent the UK at this ASEM Foreign Ministers’ meeting. It is a particular pleasure to see a democratically-elected leader of Myanmar in the Chair.

Myanmar’s path towards peace and democracy has been long and difficult. Major challenges remain. The UK is proud to have been a consistent advocate for human rights and democracy in Myanmar over many years. We continue to work with the civilian government to promote peace, sustainable development and fundamental rights for all communities in Myanmar.

We are particularly grateful to you, Madam Chair, for your willingness to address the issue of Rakhine in the margins of this meeting. We welcome your inclusive vision for Rakhine and commitment to the right of return for refugees.

I would also like to pay tribute to the generosity of Bangladesh for taking in more than 610,000 refugees over the past 3 months – a huge burden for any country. The UK has given some £47 million in humanitarian support and we stand ready, along with others here, I trust, to contribute further.

UK-Asia

The UK’s links with Asia run deep. They include some of our closest commercial, political and people-to-people links. As we prepare to leave the European Union, our commitment to ASEM and to Asia will endure.

Rules-based System

ASEM brings together countries with a deep commitment to the rules-based international system. Peace and sustainable development in both our regions depend on that system. So I want to highlight two threats to the rules-based system, and four global challenges that can only be addressed through strengthening that system.

North Korea

As many have mentioned, the first regional issue is the threat posed by North Korea‘s reckless nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The unanimous Security Council vote to strengthen sanctions sent the strongest possible signal of international resolve.

We all have a duty to enforce UN sanctions urgently and rigorously.

South China Sea

The second regional issue concerns the South China Sea. We are committed to a Rules-Based Maritime order. European states have a legitimate interest in peace, stability and security even as far away as the South China Sea. The UK’s position remains that all states must respect international law, as reflected in UNCLOS, and seek to settle disputes peacefully, without coercion or the threat of force.

Global Challenges

Turning to the global challenges:

The UK has shown that it is possible to cut emissions while pursuing economic growth. And I hope others will be able to follow that lead. The Illegal Wildlife Trade not only harms biodiversity but also fosters corruption and undermines the rule of law. I congratulate China on its domestic ivory ban, and Vietnam for hosting the 2016 conference. London hosts the next conference on this issue in 2018. I urge ASEM to support work to combat this criminal trade.

Finally, digital connectivity can and will help enhance the links between Asia and Europe. The internet is increasingly a principal driver of our prosperity and social well-being. To ensure this continues, we must work together to tackle cyber-crime, protect online freedoms and abide by the norms of responsible state behaviour. Innovation, R&D will also ensure cyber security for us all.