ASEAN-Aust in digital trade push

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James Riley

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has unveiled a digital standards cooperative initiative with Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trade partners to work together to adopt and develop international standards to promote digital trade.

“It will mean up to date, harmonised standards to do business across borders. Standards of business and most importantly to develop with business,” Mr Turnbull said during the opening remarks at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney on Friday morning.

“Together we will ensure to take advantage of digital trade to gain greater access to markets and secure a more certain online environment to show the world what could be achieved when nations work together.

Malcolm in Asia: Opening ASEAN summit with a digital flavour

Mr Turnbull was joined by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong who welcomed the initiative as “a very good first step in developing interoperable standards which will facilitate trade, and also review cost for businesses, particularly for SMEs.”

Singapore, the 2018 ASEAN chair, identified “innovation and resilience” as its two clear themes for its 12-month term.

Speaking on the country’s theme and in the context of the new digital trade standards initiative, Mr Lee said Singapore would pursue an agreement specifically focused on e-commerce in order to “streamline the different regulatory systems across ASEAN countries and to make e-transactions safer and more convenient.”

Mr Turnbull said new standards would open up opportunity for businesses, especially SMEs, to take advantage of digital trade in the region.

“We live in a world where the pace and the scale of change is utterly without precedent. It’s an age of disruption where the ever-evolving trend of digitalisation is turning old business models on their head,” he said.

“Businesses must adapt and invest in technologies and in their workers. Small to medium businesses are the ones that are most able, most swiftly to make that adjustment. Now nowhere is the potential for digital trade greater than in our region.”

The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit is the first time Australia has hosted the leaders of the members of ASEAN. It’s focused on helping Australian businesses export to the region and adapt to technological changes.

Australia formally made its commitment to ASEAN in 2014 to build “mutual security and prosperity”.

The Southeast Asia region presents huge opportunities for local Australian businesses. Last year alone, Southeast Asian startups attracted a record of US$8 billion from investors. The ASEAn region is also home to 630 million people, which is tipped to grow by 100 million by 2030.

Australia signed agreements on innovation and cybersecurity with Singapore mid-last year.

There has been a recent push to encourage Australian startups and tech firms to target the growing south-east Asia markets, with the federal government establishing a landing pad for businesses in Singapore last year.

Other Australian accelerators that have also opened up landing pads in the country include Telstra’s Muru-D and Collective Campus.

A group of Australian investors and founders also recently formed the Asia Pacific AgTech Alliance that was launched in Singapore earlier this year by Melbourne-based AgTech startup accelerator SproutX.

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