The GSMA and the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) issued a joint statement Wednesday urging the participating countries of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement to engage with each other to develop positive policies to enable a truly pan-Asian digital economy.
The GSMA and AIC said that the RCEP can play a critical role in enabling positive policy development in the digital economy and reducing or removing barriers and restrictions that suppress digital trade and investments in the Asia Pacific region.
“The RCEP will play an increasingly important role in the region’s digital future, as it involves all of the largest Asian economies, including both ASEAN and non-ASEAN nations,” said Alasdair Grant, head of Asia Pacific for the GSMA. “This is even more critical in light of the stalled talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as the growing need for innovation, productivity, economic growth and job creation in today’s digital economies. Services and trade in services are growing rapidly in Asia Pacific. This is a vital source of growth for countries in a changing economic environment.”
“RCEP has the opportunity to set the trade rules that are necessary to ensure a growing digital economy across Asia – the protection of cross-border data flows is a critical part of this,” said Jeff Paine, managing director of AIC.
The two industry bodies outlined three objectives for the RCEP to pursue:
- Stronger economic cooperation, through aligned approaches to enact progressive policies and regulations that will facilitate the growth of the broad digital economy, particularly critical sectors such as telecommunications, e-commerce and digital services. This would include elimination of restrictions to digital trade such as barriers to cross-border data flows and requirements to localize data.
- Greater investment through removal or reduction of restrictionsand creation of strong investment protection mechanisms including minimum standards of treatment, and compensation in cases of expropriation. The opportunities for partnerships between international and domestic players, as well as the development and growth of local players, are greatest where the regulatory environment supports investment by both international and domestic organizations.
- Emergence of a regional digital economic architecture, through facilitation, promotion and enablement of digital economy access and infrastructure across the region.
Countries currently participating in the RCEP negotiations include all ten members of ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six countries that already have free trade agreements with ASEAN (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea).