Asean officials meet to mull e-commerce

Asean officials meet to mull e-commerce

Senior Asean officials are scheduled to meet in Singapore during July 6-11 to discuss joint development of e-commerce to facilitate digital business and consumer protection for cross-border online purchases among member states.

The officials are also expected to talk about upgrading the services-related agreement at the Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM).

One of the key issues is the joint effort to exempt import tax levied on online purchases among Asean members, said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department.

Asean started talks on an e-commerce agreement in November 2017 and aims to finalise a pact this year.

The Asean agreement is intended to streamline regional trade rules governing e-commerce to promote greater digital connectivity and lower operating barriers to entry for businesses.

The pact will enhance the regional trade architecture for e-commerce, realise freer movement of e-commerce goods across Southeast Asia and support the regional expansion of companies based in Asean.

The objectives of the agreement are to facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions, contribute to creating an environment of trust and confidence in the use of e-commerce and deepen cooperation among Asean members to further develop and intensify the use of the platform to drive economic growth and social development in the region.

If the agreement comes into force, e-commerce will become an important tool for Asean members, empowering Thai entrepreneurs to increase their trade volume among Asean nations, Ms Auramon said.

Trade rules will be discussed to improve the ease of doing business, helping small and medium-sized enterprises, while consumers will have more alternatives to buy goods and services from online channels with convenience and confidence, she said.

The upcoming meeting will also follow up on the progress of the Asean Economic Community blueprint, including Asean-wide self-certification for rule of origin and the linkage of electronic customs systems for Asean Single Window implementation among the 10 member countries, Ms Auramon said.

The single-window system operates in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Asean is Thailand's top trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to US$101 billion (3.17 trillion baht) last year.

Thai exports to Asean rose 8.9% to $59.7 billion, while imports surged 13.6% to $41.5 billion. The key markets were Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Ms Auramon said that Singapore, as the chair of the Asean meeting, will also push negotiations on upgrading the Asean Trade in Services Agreement.

Talks on applying a negative list model are expected to be concluded some time this year.

Under the negative list approach, countries specifically list products or services on which they are not ready to lower tariffs (or decrease non-tariff barriers).

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