Forward thinking, South-East Asia, and Elizabeth Truss | Daniel Evans


Elizabeth Truss went to Southeast Asia to build better ties. Perhaps she’s been reading your author.

The rest of the world is catching up very, very fast. This won’t be a surprise to anyone originally from outside the West. Never mind “little Englanders”, never mind “little Europeans”; what about “little Westerners”?

The people of the developing world are increasingly developed. They work hard. They don’t love their children any less. They’re building great places to live. When are they going to figure out they can demand higher wages? What will it do to Western quality of life when they realise that they can consume more of what they make for themselves?

For even a moderately well-off Westerner, quality of life is basically just as good, if not better, in the capitals and major cities of a lot of the rest of the world. The obstacles and inconveniences are much diminished even within the timeframe of one generation. Why not move somewhere else and work remotely and internationally? Maybe it’s cool and exotic to go live in Kuala Lumpur or wherever for a couple of years.

What would that mean for the revenue model of the UK government? Has Western taxation substantially changed since the 1800s when you could just physically find and tax people, farms, factories, etc. in particular places?

The rest of the world is increasingly well-connected, technologically enabled, and English-speaking. The West as a whole is almost entirely complacent about or blind to the risks to its way of life.

If they wake up to them, there are a lot of opportunities for Westerners.

Elizabeth Truss’s trip to South East Asia is welcome. Is this a sign that someone is thinking strategically and longer-term? Building a country is a multi-decade project. It’s not possible to book in 5-year lots whenever there’s a general election. Even better, she seems to be building on her previous work (Vietnam trade deal) as Secretary of State for International Trade.

Here’s some estimates for country GDP rankings in 2050. In 2016, in the top 20 world economies there were five European countries excluding Russia. In 2050 there will be three. South East Asian entrants go up from two to three, but Indonesia accelerates from today’s eighth largest economy to fourth.

A stronger South East Asia is inevitable. It’s also in the UK’s interests regardless of the opportunities.

It’s good risk management for manufacturing and supply chains to spread away from China. Vietnam in particular is already preparing to welcome some big relocations over the next few years. South East Asia in general is rich with natural resources and agriculture. As South East Asians get richer there will be a lot of opportunities for the British to trade in a lot of other surrounding goods and services.

It will also help for the countries with interests in the South China Sea to align and cooperate where possible. In case you missed it, the UK led an international carrier strike group in the South China Sea earlier this year.

Getting things right in South East Asia is a good first step toward building long-term, post-Brexit economic, foreign, and defence policy.


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