SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, November 11, urged members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to deepen digital economic integration, saying it would help businesses connect more easily to the- across borders and to reach new markets in the digital economy.
“It is time to extend this vision of regional economic integration to the digital realm,” Lee said in a pre-recorded keynote speech broadcast at this year’s APEC CEO Summit.
“To strengthen our cooperation in the digital economy, APEC members should work on a regional digital economy agreement or partnership agreement.”
The two-day summit will be held virtually and will bring together political leaders, CEOs and thought leaders from APEC economies. APEC is made up of 21 members, with the cooperative process primarily concerned with trade and economic issues.
Mr Lee’s comments come as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies, with technology transforming commerce and cross-border payments.
In Southeast Asia alone, the internet economy is expected to triple by 2025 to more than US $ 300 billion per year, Lee said, highlighting the “huge” potential of the internet. ‘Digital Economy.
While trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have set certain rules to facilitate e-commerce, Lee said, agreements targeted at the digital economy “would take that further.”
“They provide benchmarks on common frameworks and rules for digital commerce, including emerging technologies and data innovation,” he said.
Some APEC members have already made such deals, Lee said, highlighting the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) between Chile, New Zealand and Singapore and how more APEC recently expressed interest in it.
“It is useful as a possible building block towards a wider regional or global architecture,” he said.
Mr. Lee said APEC members can extend the existing DEPA or develop a new agreement with expanded membership. This will create a “new dimension of economic integration,” he said.
The member economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are already taking the first steps to do so, Lee said, referring to the ASEAN Smart Cities Network online portal where cities can share. best practices in new areas of growth such as digitization.
“These are all useful mechanisms that can be adapted in a wider regional context,” he added.
Globally, Lee said, there must also be a “cohesive and concerted” response to managing the digital transition, amid a growing gap of opportunity between the digital haves and have-nots.
For example, the establishment of global digital standards and cooperative initiatives will enable more people to participate meaningfully in the digital economy, he said.
“There are many areas to consider, for example, fair and secure access to data, freer cross-border data flows, tackling disinformation and cyber threats, and strengthening multilateral cooperation to harness digital technologies in the service of sustainable development, ”he declared.