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Work across borders to boost digital economy: Asean business leaders

AS Asean's digital economy booms, cross-border cooperation is key to realising its full potential, regional business leaders said at the Singapore Business Federation's Asean Outlook Conference 2018 on Wednesday.

Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Oudet Souvannavong noted, for instance, that there are opportunities for digital developers in the CLMV countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Yet these countries are still largely looking to the United States and Europe for solutions, when they could look to their neighbours instead, he said. "I believe there are good engineers in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia who can help us."

Panellist Nick Nash, group president of internet firm Sea Limited, said one factor hampering regional e-commerce is the difficulty of payment. He suggested the creation of an Asean e-wallet framework to encourage e-commerce across borders.

Robert Yap, chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council (BAC), said the Council will work with Asean governments and business bodies to drive regional digital development.

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As Singapore assumes Asean chairmanship this year, e-commerce is a key focus, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon, the conference's guest of honour.

Other priorities are facilitating trade, deepening trade in services, making investment easier and strengthening ties with Asean dialogue partners.

Giving an update on the progress of the Asean Single Window, Dr Koh noted that as of Jan 1, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have begun to use the electronic version of the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement's Certification of Origin Form D, which shows that a product is eligible for preferential tariff treatment.

The conference was one of several Asean-related activities that SBF is holding this year to encourage firms to venture into the region. Upcoming events include seminars on digitisation and young entrepreneurs, and the Asean Business and Investment Summit in November.

In recent years, each Asean BAC chair has also introduced a legacy project to improve regional growth. Singapore's will be SGConnect, a framework to encourage member countries to share solutions for smart, sustainable and symbiotic growth.

This could involve standardised skills training or the sharing of data-analytics-based urban logistics solutions, Dr Yap, who is executive chairman of logistics giant YCH Group, told The Business Times.

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