‘Next 5 years crucial for ASEAN digitising trade, economy’

Speakers at NIKKEI-ISEAS Forum

Published : 24 Sep 2021 09:42 PM | Updated : 25 Sep 2021 12:52 AM

As the ASEAN economic and free trade bloc agreed to develop a digital trade pact, the Digital Trade Forum co-organized by NIKKEI Group and ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS) gathered minds from government organizations, think tanks, and industry online to extend a closer look at cross-border digital trade frameworks and supply chains. 

“Next five years is a crucial phase to transform ASEAN towards an inclusive, sustainable and integrated digital economy community,” emphasized by Dr. Le Quang Lan, Assistant Director for ICT and Tourism, ASEAN Secretariat.

 “This process requires a strong commitment from the ASEAN Member States, effective coordination efforts among sectoral bodies of ASEAN, and greater contribution of relevant stakeholders, including the private sector,” he added.

He thanked Nikkei, ISEAS, and Huawei for the initiative to organizing the forum. 

Jay Chen, Vice President of Huawei Asia Pacific, delivered a speech on accelerating digital transformation and collaboration on new rules for the digital ecosystem to unlock the potentials for growth in the region. 

To enable Southeast Asia to seize opportunities during this crucial five years for development, Huawei is committed to providing infrastructure, connectivity, nurture start-ups and cultivate digital skilled talents under the promise of “In Asia Pacific, for Asia Pacific.”

In his speech, Dr. Jayant Menon, Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS, highlighted opportunities from digitization for win-win outcomes that benefit all countries in the region, whatever their stage of digital transformation.  

Speakers on the forum also mentioned that cutting-edge technologies such as AI, Cloud, Internet of Things, and 5G are all-digital infrastructure. New digital trade rules can unlock potential; for example, digital documents can save up to 20% of a transaction’s costs.                   

The importance of deepening trust amongst stakeholders in South East Asia was echoed by all participants. Dr. Johannes Fritz, CEO of St. Gallen Endowment for Prosperity through Trade, said mutual trust and recognition of data governance is a key element driving digital trade forward. 

To address better the concerns of the digital divide, cybersecurity, and data management (especially between less-developed countries and front-runners), private companies are valuable contributors to policy-making because they help to shape realistic regulations that are business-friendly, respond to common interests, and bridge social gaps such as internet infrastructure and digital skills. 

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is an important building block for regional trade. Digitalization can improve the benefits flowing from these agreements. The recently held ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting highlighted the digital integration initiatives and emphasized the seamless and secure flow of goods, services, and data. 

The region can further implement and develop regulatory forms such as FTAs to facilitate digital trade and economy, seizing the chance to lead in the digital era based on collaborations, mutual-agreed standards, and better governance.