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They also agreed to start negotiations on the Asean Digital Economy Framework Agreement by 2025.

A focus on digital transformation to enable the smooth flow of goods and services and data will help ensure the region continues to draw global trade and investments, and better position itself for future growth, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said at meetings with his counterparts last week.

“Asean remains fully committed to free and open trade and deepening regional economic integration, especially amidst the challenging backdrop posed by Covid-19,” he said.

“As the region emerges from the pandemic, it is important to leverage new growth opportunities in areas such as digitalisation and sustainability so that we entrench Asean as an attractive trade and investment proposition for our global partners.”

The 53rd Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting was held via video conference on Sept 8 and 9, and will continue from Sept 13 to 15 when the ministers will meet their counterparts from the grouping’s key partners, including the United States and China.

At the meeting, chaired by Brunei, which holds the rotating leadership of the grouping this year, the Asean ministers endorsed the Bandar Seri Begawan Roadmap, which sets out an agenda to turn the ongoing pandemic crisis into an opportunity for South-east Asia through digital transformation and greater integration of its digital economy till 2025.

The road map highlights digital initiatives that are expected to boost the region’s competitiveness over the immediate and longer term.