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(September 1, 2020) New dynamics of Asean's external ties

Before Brexit, very few people in this part of the world would have imagined that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, then immediately want to become the 11th Asean dialogue partner. Asean senior officials have already discussed the UK's prospects. They have yet to reach any consensus as it is not just about adding a former EU member but involves a plethora of issues that would come with the lifting of a moratorium that has been in place for 24 years. Some members are saying that admitting the UK, a former colonial master of four of the grouping's members, would open Pandora's Box with unknown consequences.

During the period of Asean enlargement from 1995-1999 with the addition of four new members, the region was adjusting to cohabit with the devastating financial conditions and multi-polar world. The trend also prompted Asean to design outreach diplomacy with all key major players to ensure a sustained strategic balance among them. Except for Australia and New Zealand, which were admitted as dialogue partners in 1974 and 1975, from 1977-1996 Asean added eight more such partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Russia, India, the US and the EU, excluding the UN and other regional organisations.