U.S. Businesses Encourage ASEAN Economic Ministers in the Promotion of an Integrated Regional Digital Economy

(Singapore) – The US-ASEAN Business Council concluded its business mission to the 50th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting today, where from August 30-September 1, 17 U.S. companies engaged key economic officials on regional and bilateral trade and investment issues.

This year marks the Council’s 19th annual meeting with all ten ASEAN Economic Ministers. Driven by the key ASEAN 2018 deliverable of fostering innovation and the digital economy, the Council presented its annual AEM White Paper on “Building a Strong and Integrated Digital Economy in ASEAN: Recommendations and Perspectives of U.S. Business”, which highlighted key challenges and recommendations in various sectors. These recommendations were presented at the Council’s annual AEM-U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) consultation, which was led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Jeffrey Gerrish.

The Council’s delegation was co-led by Chair of the Council’s ASEAN Committee, Iain McLaughlin, who is also President of the Coca-Cola Company’s ASEAN Business Unit; the Council’s President & CEO, Alexander Feldman; and the Council’s Senior Vice President & Regional Managing Director, Ambassador Michael Michalak.

“With a strong presence in all ten ASEAN countries and around the world, we recognize the significant impact that enhanced connectivity can have on the efficiency of Coca-Cola’s supply chain and the value we create in each market,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “As the Chair of the Council’s ASEAN Committee, we remain committed to economic openness and to engaging across the region as it strives towards the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2025 goals of creating a highly integrated and cohesive economy, and a ‘global ASEAN’.”

“The digital economy and the changes that technology brings makes partnership between ASEAN and the U.S. private sector more crucial than ever. Especially as the region embraces innovative, resilient, and interconnected growth. The interest of the U.S. business community to work with ASEAN towards policies which embrace free, fair, and open trade across the region is reflected in the size of our delegation, which is one of the largest we’ve brought in 19 years,” said Mr. Feldman. “With representation from 150+ American multinational companies across a spectrum of industries, our annual AEM White Paper leverages upon the expertise of our member companies to help identify cross-sectoral and forward-looking digital policy recommendations that will support the adoption of various ASEAN agreements and frameworks, including the anticipated ASEAN Agreement on E-Commerce.”

Alongside the AEM Whitepaper, the Council also released an educational E-Commerce handbook, entitled, “ASEAN Customs Made Easy: A Guide for Online Shoppers”. Supported by the Vice-Chair of the ASEAN Committee, UPS, the handbook aims to bolster the facilitation of e-Commerce flows as another deliverable for Singapore’s chairmanship year.

“With E-Commerce projected to make up half of ASEAN’s digital economy by 2025, it is important that we continue promoting the development of a multilateral, rules-based system conducive to the free flow of trade,” echoed Ambassador Michalak. “The need for an open and free economic environment will prove especially paramount as ASEAN Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) look to flourish and expand across the region and beyond. Through closer public-private cooperation, we hope we can continue working together with ASEAN to build such a resilient network.”

The delegation also held bilateral meetings with several key officials, including:

  • H.E. Enggartiasto Lukita, Minister of Trade, Indonesia
  • H.E. U Soe Win, Minister of Planning and Finance, Myanmar
  • H.E. Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary of Trade and Industry, the Philippines
  • H.E. Khemmani Pholsena, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Laos PDR
  • H.E. Aladdin D. Rillo, Deputy ASEAN Secretary-General for ASEAN Economic Community
  • H.E. Jeffrey Gerrish, Deputy United States Trade Representative, U.S.
  • H.E. Sok Sopheak, Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia
  • Mr. Dougals Foo, Singapore Appointed Representative, ASEAN Business Advisory Council

Joint U.S. State Department Representatives, including Ms. Manisha Singh, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs; Ambassador Piper Campbell, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and; Ms. Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath, Chargé d'Affaires ad interim, U.S. Embassy in Singapore

At the joint meeting with the U.S. State Department representatives, the Council also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Mission to ASEAN to formalize its partnership over the U.S.-ASEAN Internship Program.

The delegation of participating member companies included AIG, Amazon, Becton Dickinson, Caterpillar, Citi, Coca-Cola, Facebook, FedEx, Ford, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, KKR, PayPal, Procter & Gamble, UPS, and Visa.  

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For more than 30 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's 150+ membership generates over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.