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ASEAN launches talks on regionwide digital public infrastructure development agreement

ASEAN launches talks on regionwide digital public infrastructure development agreement

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has begun negotiations on a Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) that will define the development and deployment of digital public infrastructure within the ten-member economic and political bloc.

The negotiations were launched on September 3 in the Indonesian capital Jakarta during an ASEAN Economic Community Council (AECC) meeting, which also agreed on key aspects to guide the negotiation process, according to an announcement.

ASEAN Economic Ministers had given the greenlight for the DEFA negotiations at their 55th meeting on August 17 during which they endorsed findings of a study on the digital economy framework proposal.

Nine core areas will be explored in the negotiations and they include digital trade, cross-border transactions, cybersecurity, digital ID, digital payments, cross-border data flows, as well as other emerging topics related to tech development.

“It is an honor to experience this milestone with all of you and I look forward to working closely with each of ASEAN Member States,” said Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, who expressed optimism that the negotiations could be completed by 2025.

ASEAN Secretary General, Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, who attended the launch of the DEFA negotiations, praised the initiative, saying it would make tremendous contributions to ASEAN’s digital economy by 2030. It could add up to $2 trillion to the regional economy while enhancing its competitiveness in the global economic space, Hourn added.

Thailand is chair of the DEFA negotiations committee which includes lead negotiators and experts from all the member countries of the bloc. It has been agreed that the first meeting of the committee will take place by the end of this year, while other meetings will come up in 2024 and 2025.

Developing digital public infrastructure such as effective, secure and streamlined digital ID and digital payment systems is part of the digital transformation agenda of many countries around the world at the moment.

Asian tech giant, India, has been playing a leading advocacy role in this regard and the issue is also expected to be part of discussions at the G20 summit in New Delhi later this week.

While ASEAN  has set things in motion with regards to establishing DEFA, there have also been calls for the regional block to also consider putting in place an AI governance framework.

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