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Singapore to enhance ASEAN development by boosting regional economic integration and tech

Singapore to enhance ASEAN development by boosting regional economic integration and tech

According to a recent
report
, Prime Minister
Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore will enhance its support for an
initiative aimed at narrowing the development gap among the members of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Officials from ASEAN countries and their key counterparts from the region are in Singapore this week for the annual AMM and related meetings, which started on Monday. Singapore is the ASEAN chair this year. 

The aim is to boost
economic integration and technology adoption in the region.Three Initiative for
ASEAN Integration (IAI) centres in
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos will be
upgraded to Singapore Cooperation Centres. These centres will have an expanded range of
technical assistance and new modalities for capacity building.

In a speech at the
opening ceremony of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM)
and related meetings, Mr Lee said that Singapore
hopes to share its experiences while simultaneously learning from their neighbours and partners. 

Mr Lee stressed the need to continue
strengthening regional architecture even as various ASEAN-led structures, such
as the ASEAN Economic Community, have served the region well.This comes amid
growing geopolitical uncertainties and how each ASEAN member state is subject
to pressures from bigger states.Mr Lee noted that the only way to remain relevant
and be of value was to stay united, while also maintaining ASEAN’s cohesion and
effectiveness.

Economic
Integration And Technology

Mr Lee highlighted two areas where the region can
do more: economic integration and technology adoption. With regards to the
former, he said that it is imperative that ASEAN continues its support for the
rules-based multilateral trading system.This must be done
despite the fact that the system has come under pressure of late due to the escalating
trade tensions between US and major economies like China and the European Union
(EU). 

At the moment, ASEAN
countries continue to work towards the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive
Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of the year.In addition, it is working
with the EU on a Comprehensive Air Transport Arrangement (CATA). The latter will be the
first substantive aviation arrangement between the two regional groupings. 

Mr Lee was adamant that when established, the
RCEP and ASEAN-EU CATA will send a clear signal of ASEAN’s commitment to trade liberalisation and economic integration.However, he does not
expect negotiations to be easy given the growing mood of nationalism and
protectionism. 

Technology and
innovation will also have to be embraced to build up ASEAN’s digital
connectivity and make itself ready for the future. As a start, the 26
participating cities of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network held the inaugural
meeting last month. Singapore hopes that
these cities will come together to establish a common framework for smart city
development and to develop city-specific action plans and innovative projects
that will improve the lives of their peoples.

Foreign Minister
Vivian Balakrishnan, who will chair the AMM, said that ASEAN is at an "inflexion point" given changes in the
security and economic landscape.He said that the
global population is transiting into a multipolar world; most are acutely aware
of the storm clouds of the trade war and can also see and feel the disruption
that the digital revolution is causing. Hence, it is vital for
the regional grouping to remain anchored on its principles of unity and
centrality, maintain an open rules-based regional architecture while remaining
a testament to benefits of free trade and economic integration. ASEAN will also have
to keep collaborating with external partners, Dr
Balakrishnan added.

On the agenda over the
next few days of meetings, the East Asia Summit will negotiate a range of
statements on topics, such as cybersecurity, smart cities, and counter-terrorism.