SINGAPORE: Singapore businesses can soon get a shot in the arm when they expand across Southeast Asia, with the help of an ASEAN agreement on e-commerce that will lower operating barriers to entry for these businesses and ramp up digital connectivity.
Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran told industry participants at Channel NewsAsia’s Asia Business First Forum 2018 on Wednesday (Mar 28) that negotiations between Singapore and ASEAN member states are ongoing to finalise this agreement by the end of 2018.
Under the agreement, regulations will be streamlined to help companies who are finding it confusing to navigate the varying e-commerce regulations across the ASEAN countries given that the region’s e-commerce scene remains in its infancy.
Mr Iswaran said: “This will provide a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs, start-ups and micro, small and medium enterprises, to market their products and services regionally, while making it easier for them to send and receive electronic payments.”
In a dialogue session during the forum, Mr Iswaran said that while the wave of technological changes has already created profound challenges for some businesses across sectors, more can be done to help these businesses embrace technology and “unlock their potential”.
“Whilst there may be challenges from digitalisation, the opportunities and potential to unlock the potential of small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular, are enormous if on various efforts to do this. And if we can now bring it together and create an ASEAN digital value proposition, I think that will really unlock a new trajectory of growth.”
As such, Mr Iswaran said ASEAN must resist the tendency to “look inwards” and instead, stay resolute in its commitment to regional economic integration, so as to bring about benefits for businesses and create good job opportunities for people.
Singapore will also take the advantage of its chairmanship to work on an ASEAN Innovation Network (AIN), said Mr Iswaran.
The intent is to strengthen the networks between the innovation ecosystems in ASEAN to “spark new collaborations and solutions” to enable our companies to better respond to demands from the increasingly sophisticated and growing consumer base in the region, Mr Iswaran said.
Singapore is also enhancing its engagements with ASEAN through bilateral initiatives like an intensification of engagements with long-time partners, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
Mr Iswaran also said the ASEAN Single Window – which seeks to help traders cut costs by expediting cargo clearance and reducing paperwork – has gone live for Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam earlier this year.