Digital Trade and Digital Transformation in Asia – eRTPC Asia & Pacific
Digitally driven economic activity is expanding by leaps and bounds, considerably faster than global GDP. The digital ecosystem has enormous potential for increasing growth, and shrinking distance and time. It pushes out technological frontiers, spreads opportunities, lower costs, and reduces poverty – not least by enabling global engagement of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Realizing the full benefits of digitalization requires close cooperation among governments, especially those who are setting the technological pace and making most use of the medium. Mutual gains will flow from a pooling of sovereignty among major economies to craft a set of rules and pursue policy convergence. Convergence will not always be feasible nor desirable, and the challenge is then to manage divergence.
Progress is being made. In the last two decades almost 200 preferential trade agreements containing digital trade provisions, many of them bilateral, have been established. In 2017 an important step was taken by dozens of members of the WTO to craft an agreement on e-commerce. These negotiations are proceeding among some 86 members accounting for more than 90 per cent of digital trade.
The purpose of this roundtable discussion is to explore the challenges and opportunities of digital transformation from an Asian perspective.