SINGAPORE: Economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Monday (Nov 12) signed an agreement to facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions within the region.
The agreement, finalised after nine rounds of negotiations which started last June, is the grouping's first agreement on e-commerce.
Apart from aiming to facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions, the newly signed pact will look to foster an environment of trust and confidence in the use of e-commerce, said Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing at the signing ceremony held on the sidelines of the 17th ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council Meeting.
It also aims to deepen cooperation among ASEAN member states so as to spur the use of e-commerce as a way of driving regional economic growth.
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Mr Chan said the agreement will encourage paperless trading between businesses and governments, which can generate more rapid and efficient transactions in ASEAN.
Businesses can access and move data across borders more easily, subject to appropriate safeguards, he added.
On that, ASEAN has taken steps to promote better consumer and personal data protection through the use of online dispute resolution mechanisms to facilitate the resolution of e-commerce claims, said Mr Chan.
Sustained economic growth and a young, digitally-savvy population are among factors driving ASEAN's Internet economy, which is expected to hit US$200 billion by 2025. Of which, e-commerce is set to grow to US$88 billion.
Mr Chan said the region's potential has attracted many foreign players, such as Amazon and Alibaba.
On top of that, Southeast Asia has seen the rise of ASEAN-based unicorns, like Singapore-based Lazada and Indonesia's Tokopedia, that now have a sizable presence in the region's e-commerce market.
However, adoption remains in its infancy compared to China and the United States, said Mr Chan.
He referred to non-tariff barriers, including logistics and cross-border digital regulations, that remain as challenges for small- and medium-sized enterprises looking.
"This agreement will help bolster the trust and confidence of ASEAN consumers in e-commerce and drive adoption. In doing so, we will enable ASEAN businesses to grow domestically, regionally and globally," he said.