The US-ASEAN Business Council led a delegation to the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting for the 23rd consecutive year of attending the AEM annual consultation with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The Meeting was co-chaired by Cambodia Minister of Commerce, H. E. Pan Sorasak, and the U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai. The Council also held bilateral meetings with high-level officials from Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, the Philippines, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, and USTR.
For this year’s Mission, the Council featured a theme of advancing ASEAN’s digital economy and provided business perspective on the various key enablers to establish a conducive ecosystem for digital trade and e-commerce to flourish. Members of the delegation, which represent the U.S. leading technology, financial services, apparel, and health & life sciences companies, called on the Economic Ministers to modernize trade agenda with the adoption of emerging digital technologies as well as policies that are nimble and responsive towards business. The U.S. business community, thus, encouraged the ASEAN Member States to actively participate in robust, rules-based, high-quality, and high-standard digital agreements. The Council’s delegation also spoke on the importance of a sustainable trade policy agenda, including through measures to assist regulatory convergence and investment mobilization to advance net zero objectives.
“Digital trade will drive the next phase of ASEAN’s economic development and help to promote inclusive growth,” said Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, the Council’s Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director. He underscored that the, “ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) would provide an opportunity to build an enabling framework for ASEAN’s digital trade to advance. We, therefore, commended the decision by the AEM to accelerate the negotiation timeline, commencing in 2023. It is imperative that DEFA negotiations will be transparent and inclusive towards the private sector, to ensure that the commitments are commercially meaningful and relevant to the business.
This Mission was co-led by Ms. Alexandra Stuart, Vice President for Government Engagement, Southeast Asia and International Affairs at Visa and a Vice Chair of the Council’s ASEAN Committee. In her remarks, Ms. Stuart highlighted that, “Our annual engagement with the AEM has been the centerpiece of the Council’s ASEAN Committee and shows the enduring commitment of U.S. businesses in supporting an integrated and prosperous ASEAN. Our objective has always been to promote the ease of doing business through harmonization of trade rules and advancement of ASEAN regional integration to enable seamless, inter-connected cross-border trade, including for MSMEs across the region.”
To support these goals, the Council delivered a White Paper on Digital Trade Priorities for ASEAN and a summary of progress in developing a White Paper on Cybersecurity Standards and Conformance to Support Digital Trade in ASEAN. These papers would facilitate further engagements between the US-ABC members and ASEAN sectoral bodies relevant for digital trade such as ASEAN Coordinating Committee on E-Commerce and Digital Economy (ACCED) and the ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACCSQ).
As a means to support ASEAN’s sustainability efforts, the Council also submitted Recommendations for ASEAN Engagement in Basel Convention Initiatives to Advance the Circular Economy. With this, the U.S. companies hoped that ASEAN would help to shape emerging trade rules and other requirements of the Basel Convention in ways that align with the sustainability, investment, and trade goals of the region.
US-ABC member companies participating in the mission include Amazon Web Services, Citi, Google, KKR, Nike, Salesforce, Stripe, UL, Visa, and Zuellig Pharma.