Today Online | 20 September 2017
E-commerce a top focus when S’pore chairs Asean
SINGAPORE — E-commerce and the digital economy will be the key points of focus when Singapore takes over the chairmanship of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) next year, Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education, said yesterday.
Addressing the Asean Summit 2017 hosted by legal firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, Ms Low highlighted the importance of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and the Republic’s efforts to open up business opportunities for small and medium-sized companies in the region.
“The AEC remains the cornerstone of Singapore’s foreign economic policy. Asean has consistently been Singapore’s largest trading partner, accounting for 25.7 per cent (S$217 billion) of Singapore’s world trade,” noted Ms Low.
With an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of between 4.5 and 6.1 per cent from 2012 to 2016, Asean is expected to grow at a yearly average of 5.2 per cent in the period 2017 to 2020.
“Innovation and e-commerce present immense opportunities as new growth sectors and enablers that businesses can tap into,” said Ms Low.
Highlighting the example of e-commerce start-up ShopBack, Ms Low noted how the local company successfully immersed itself in regional markets and established partnerships with merchants in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Singapore will work closely with Asean member states to promote innovation, build digital connectivity and facilitate e-commerce flows into the region to benefit businesses — especially the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises — Ms Low said.
Mr Azman Jaafar, deputy managing partner and chairman of Asean Plus Group, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing said: “Singapore’s push towards prioritising the digital economy is timely, given that most Asean countries are now primed to jump onto the digital bandwagon given the rise of the Asian middle class and increasing Internet penetration rates.”
The Republic will also work closely with other Asean member states towards the realisation of an Asean-wide self-certification regime and the Asean single window. Tariff concessions and expedited customs clearance via the electronic exchange of information across borders will lower administrative barriers and improve the movement of goods and services across the region, added Ms Low.
Speaking at a panel discussion during the summit, Mr Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Singapore, noted the potential for a digital economy in Indonesia is huge. He cited the example of ride-hailing firm Go Jek as a new breed of businesses tapping into the digital economy. Operating in more than 25 cities in Indonesia, Go Jek’s motorcycle taxis transport people as well as goods and services, including the delivery of groceries and food.
Mr Antonio Morales, the Philippines’ Ambassador to Singapore, said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, to be completed this year or next, is the most important trade agreement since the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
When approved, the RCEP will cover 3.5 billion people, making it the world’s largest market in terms of population and third in the world in terms of GDP and total trade. Economists forecast that if the RCEP is concluded, it would boost regional GDP by close to 2 per cent, Mr Morales added.