Ministers to mull e-trade agreement

Ministers to mull e-trade agreement

The main topic at the 24th Asean Economic Ministers Retreat in Singapore is cross-border e-commerce.
The main topic at the 24th Asean Economic Ministers Retreat in Singapore is cross-border e-commerce.

Asean economic ministers are scheduled to discuss an agreement on e-commerce to facilitate digital business and consumer protection for cross-border online purchases among member states.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of Trade Negotiations Department, said Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara will lead the Thai trade negotiators at the 24th Asean Economic Ministers' Retreat this week.

It will be held from Wednesday to Saturday in Singapore with key issues to include the Asean agreement on e-commerce.

The regional bloc started negotiating on the pact last November and wants to finish the talks this year.

Auramon: Will lead Thai negotiators

The deal will largely focus on the bloc's cooperation in building up infrastructure for ICT and communications, consumer protection for online trading, protection of personal data, cybersecurity, logistics and payment systems.

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

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.

Ministers 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 between the 10 member countries, said Ms Auramon.

The single window system operates in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. Another follow-up involves negotiations on the Asean Trade in Services Agreement, with talks expected to be concluded and the pact signed this year.

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

Thailand's 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.

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