SINGAPORE: E-commerce and the digital economy will be a key focus for Singapore when it takes over the Asean chairmanship next year. Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Ministry of Education), yesterday said the country will also work to improve trade facilitation in a bid to help companies expand internationally. The Asean Economic Community (AEC) “remains the cornerstone of Singapore’s foreign economic policy”, Ms Low told about 250 delegates at the Asean Summit. Asean has consistently been Singapore’s largest trading partner, accounting for about a quarter of its international trade.
Since its founding in 1967, Asean’s share of global gross domestic product has almost doubled from 3.3 per cent in 1967 to 6.2 per cent last year. Asean is also the sixth largest economy in the world with a combined GDP of US$2.55 trillion (S$3.5 trillion). The Philippines is the current chair of Asean. Ms Low said Singapore will work closely with other Asean members to promote innovation, build up digital connectivity and facilitate e-commerce flows to benefit businesses, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. This will include streamlining regional trade rules governing e-commerce to promote greater digital connectivity and lowering barriers to entry to allow seamless movement of e-commerce goods.
Singapore also intends to focus on helping Asean businesses lower the administrative costs of trade, for instance by expediting Customs clearance via electronic exchange of information across borders. During its chairmanship, Singapore will also look to continue building up the region’s ties with external partners while preserving Asean centrality, said Ms Low. Asean has maintained longstanding relations with its six dialogue partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Negotiations are also ongoing for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement. “Asean businesses will drive the AEC while governments of the Asean member states play the role of catalysts to support their internationalisation,” Ms Low said. “Businesses will therefore need to continue to be nimble and adaptable, and attuned to new trends emerging from disruptive technologies and global developments.” The summit at the Suntec Convention Centre was hosted by RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.