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Singapore to push e-commerce and digital economy as ASEAN leader next year

Singapore wants e-commerce companies to expand and the digital economy across South East Asia to grow, the government's minister for trade and industry has said as it looks to take over as chair of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) next year.08 May 2017

Lim Hng Kiang told the Singapore Business Federation's ASEAN conference that Singapore is preparing measures to help companies in the ASEAN economic community (AEC) region expand when it takes over the role from the Philippines in 2018.

"We have identified e-commerce and other initiatives relating to the digital economy as [priorities].  This is a new focus area under AEC 2025. There is interest among most ASEAN member states to develop their e-commerce capabilities, to tap on emerging opportunities presented by the digital economy," Lim said.

Regional trade rules governing e-commerce will be streamlined to promote greater digital connectivity in the region and lower operating barriers to entry.

"We will also ensure that these are incorporated into our current regime and new trade agreements," he said.

Singapore will also work on trade facilitation measures in the region, Lim said, introducing an ASEAN-wide self-certification regime and an ASEAN 'single window' (ASW). The self-certification scheme will let authorised exporters self-certify that their goods meet requirements for preferential treatment, and the ASW will use electronic information exchange to speed up customs clearance.

"This will facilitate seamless movement of goods within ASEAN, allowing businesses to enjoy lower administrative and time-to-market costs," Lim said.

By 2030, ASEAN is forecast to have an economy worth $6 trillion and a population of more than 700 million, Lim said.

"This is attributed to the growing foreign direct investment, a young and rising middle class, and an abundance of natural resources. ASEAN is also envisaged to be the fourth largest single market in the world by 2030 after the EU, US, and China," he said.

The AEC "remains the cornerstone of Singapore foreign economic policy", Lim said.

"ASEAN has consistently been Singapore’s most important market and largest trading partner. In 2016, 25.7% or S$217.1 billion ($154 billion) of Singapore’s world trade was with ASEAN. Singapore accounts for the majority of intra-ASEAN trade, at 31% and is a key intermediary for external trade flows into ASEAN," he said.

Singapore said in October last year that it would invest S£10 million ($7 million) in cybersecurity for the whole ASEAN region. The ASEAN cyber capacity programme will pay for resources, expertise and training.

Singapore also launched an initiative called CyberGreen, which aims to improve countries' awareness of the state of their own cyber health and potential vulnerabilities. All ASEAN member states will be able to access CyberGreen through Singapore for free, and get a report on the state of their own country’s cyber health status