Economic integration

Singapore calls for APEC digital pact

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for a new regional digital economy deal to set the rules and best practices for cross-border digital trade and investment, warning some countries in the Asia-Pacific region and their workers are at risk of being left behind.

The Singapore leader said the new deal could be the result of either an extension of the country’s existing digital economy agreements, which include Australia, New Zealand and Chile, or a new agreement between them. members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc.

The economies of the 21 APEC member countries represent nearly 40 percent of the world’s population and more than 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). APEC partners account for over 70 percent of Australia’s total trade in goods and services.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon addressing the APEC virtual summit

Speaking at the APEC CEO summit on Thursday, Lee said it was time to expand regional economic integration to the digital realm, with the economic partnership trade agreement coming into force. global regional in January.

The Singapore Prime Minister’s appeal also precedes Friday’s virtual meeting of APEC leaders, which will include China, the United States and Australia.

Mr. Lee said that enhanced cooperation in the digital economy could be achieved through APEC members developing a digital economy agreement or partnership agreement.

“It will be a new dimension of economic integration. This will make it easier for businesses to connect across borders and reach new markets in the digital economy. “

The prime minister said existing agreements between ASEAN countries that share information and best practices in digitization and information technology could be adapted in a wider regional context to take advantage of the potential of the digital economy.

“The economic potential of the digital economy is enormous,” Mr. Lee said in his pre-recorded speech at the virtual event.

“In Southeast Asia alone, the internet economy is expected to triple in size by 2025, to more than $ 300 billion per year. And by then, total annual ICT spending in the Asia-Pacific region will exceed $ 1 trillion. “

Mr Lee said that a “cohesive and concerted” global response to managing the digital transition is also needed to improve access and participation, warning that the gap between “have and have not” has widened. .

“Global digital standards and cooperative initiatives are important,” he said.

“They will enable more people to participate meaningfully in the digital economy. 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 world. sustainable development service.

Mr Lee said the “global digital architecture” should be based on guiding principles of inclusion and social outcomes.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison used his APEC summit speech on Thursday to castigate big tech platform companies, warning that online harassment was on the rise.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley by email.

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