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DIGITAL economy will be a key priority for Asean next year as Singapore takes over chairmanship of the regional bloc, the city-state's Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade), Lim Hng Kiang, said on Thursday.
Singapore will also focus on trade internationalisation measures such as introducing a region-wide certification regime, even as Mr Lim urged economies to not turn inwards but remain open to trade and investment.
"The solution to sluggish growth lies not in closing off markets, but keeping markets open for unimpeded trade and investment flows," said Mr Lim at the opening of the Asean Conference 2017, jointly held by Singapore Business Federation, UOB, Rajah & Tann, and RSM.
Current Asean chair Philippines will pass on the regional grouping's chairmanship to Singapore in 2018.
"During our chairmanship year, Singapore intends to pursue a set of tangible and meaningful economic deliverables. We hope to tap on opportunities from global mega trends, such as the digital economy and trade facilitation," said Mr Lim.
The focus on e-commerce and digital economy is a new focus area as Asean works on the Asean Economic Community (AEC) 2025, set of integration measures to be implemented between 2016 and 2025 for the bloc. Asean hopes to streamline regional trade rules governing e-commerce to encourage digital connectivity, and lower operating barriers to entry, said Mr Lim.
Singapore will also work on realising an Asean-wide Self-Certification regime and the Asean Single Window, said Mr Lim.
It is in Singapore's best interest for the AEC to grow.
"The AEC remains the cornerstone of Singapore foreign economic policy. . . the AEC has helped to expand the global footprints of our businesses," said Mr Lim.