"ASEAN Has to be Strong and United to Offer Protection to its Members"
ASEAN is the fastest growing Internet market in the world. According to World Economic Forum, 125,000 new users coming onto the Internet every day, and the ASEAN digital economy is projected to grow significantly, adding an estimated $1 trillion to regional GDP over the next ten years.
That is why, ASEAN must embrace the digital economy, as this will serve as the driver for economic growth in the region, according to the bloc's Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi who raised the need for member-states to continuously promote the digital economy.
“Before the end of this year, all ASEAN members will be connected in the form of ASEAN Single Window,’” Lim said. ASEAN Single Window is an integrated platform for facilitating trade through faster clearance of cargo and release of shipments.
“We are looking at also at [a] digital trade agreement as part of our deliverables this year to make sure that digital trade will be going, especially, smoothly in the region,” he added.
For this part, Chief economist of the ASEAN+3 Macro Economic Research Office (AMRO) Hoe Ee Khor said that the diversity among members of ASEAN an obstacle to greater economic integration.
He said most ASEAN economies are closed, particularly in the service sector. “Small developing ASEAN economies, resource and institutional gaps are yet to be sufficiently addressed in order to participate in ASEAN-wide policies for a grand objective of seamless integration,” Khor emphasized in a Panel Discussion held at ASEAN Media Forum 2019 in Bangkok 29/7/2019.
He said that the ASEAN Single Window platform has not been applied because only Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are using electronic certificates of origin.
Khor is optimistic that regional integration would bring long-term benefits and better living standards for ASEAN people, adding that given the less friendly global environment and rising protectionism sentiment, the impetus for integration will naturally be stronger.
Other panelist, Manu Bhaskaran, the Chief Executive Officer of Centennial Asia Advisors, said that ASEAN has to be strong and united to offer protection to all its members.
Due to divergent interests, it is hard to force ASEAN countries into one mechanism. It would be more practical for smaller coalitions of like-minded countries to try bite-size integration, promoting cross border integration by developing iconic projects.
In earlier session, Dr Suthad Setboonsarng, an ASEAN specialist, emphasized that the integration of Asia will come closer to reality with the application of new technology. "ASEAN has many mechanism that should be revised to make them more relevant to help integrate Asia.” he said.
The ASEAN Secretariat and the Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) jointly organise the ASEAN Media Forum, in collaboration with the Foundation for Public Policy and Good Governance and with support of AirAsia.