Addressing delegates at a conference hosted by Asia House, Javid used the opportunity to urge ASEAN businesses to look towards the UK’s northern regions when considering investment.
“The UK is a longstanding friend and trade partner of ASEAN markets,” Javid said. “[We have] long been a proponent for free trade, of having open borders for business that allow companies to move internationally.
“This creates wealth for companies and their shareholders and the companies they invest in.”
In 2014 the UK experienced £1trn of foreign direct investment (FDI), while bilateral trade with ASEAN markets was worth almost £23bn.
The business secretary praised British success stories in ASEAN markets, citing companies such as Pearson, Tesco and Costa Coffee as examples. Selling the UK to ASEAN investors, Javid pointed towards the north of the country as a place of large economic potential.
“We’re building a northern powerhouse,” he added. “[The north is] a driving force for the UK economy – it is on the up. When you’re looking to invest, don’t just look at London; look north.”
Javid, a known Eurosceptic who has previously criticised business groups for their stance on Britain’s EU referendum, was embarrassed, he said, to admit that the UK conducted more trade with Belgium than ASEAN markets.
He said, “It is a stunningly embarrassing statistic that Britain still does more trade in Belgium than the whole of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam combined.”