Speech by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS, at the RSIS-Embassy of Chile Seminar
Ambassador James Sinclair
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. I will cover three areas, which I will briefly describe as:
– what role we can play in our respective regions of Latin America and Asia-Pacific;
– how can we promote the objectives of APEC for sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific;
– how can Chile and ASEAN cooperate.
• Latin America and Asia-Pacific are two regions connected by the Pacific Ocean, but with traditions and cultural frameworks that do not always coincide. In this regard, what are the main opportunities and challenges for deepening mutual knowledge, interactions and building trust between our societies? And which role Chile and Singapore might play in their respective regions?
2. Developing strong relations with the USA and China, the world’s biggest economies, used to be a positive and strategic enterprise. The big picture was more important than the nitty-gritty. The strategic gains would take precedence over jingoistic concerns. Unfortunately, the tension in US-China trade relations today has disrupted the predictability and future-orientated policy interest.
3. Therefore, strong relations with other economies are more important than ever to foster certainty in the international arena. But it will involve more work, be more complex and may offer less gain. Yet we cannot avoid it. This is the price that the China-USA trade war has exacted on the smaller states.
4. In this regard, Chile’s relations with Southeast Asia are welcome, including the promising ASEAN-Pacific Alliance Framework for Cooperation. Under this Framework, the areas of cooperation cover the exchange of good practices, innovation, science and technology, sustainable development and education and personal contacts.
5. Small and middle powers have to defend the rules-based multilateral system. Smaller economies offer each other the certainty and commitment we need from external partners, despite the smaller markets. But in the period of trade wars, the premium on certainty has risen, and this will be a worthwhile and mutually enriching endeavour. So on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, let us keep up the necessity of the rules-based multilateral system.
6. Capacity-building is an area that we could work together on. We could bolster capacity-building efforts for developing countries to fully realise the potential of agreements made regarding the physical and institutional infrastructure of the digital economy. For partners with insufficient material and technical resources, capacity building is important to ensure that integration and technology in the digital age do not exacerbate development divides. That could help in diluting anti-globalisation sentiments and the accompanying economic populism and protectionist policies.
• The priorities of the APEC Chile 2019 are to promote the digital society, integration 4.0, inclusive growth (participation of women in the economy and strengthening of SMEs) as well as sustainable growth. Considering the importance that both Chile and Singapore attach to these dimensions, how can both economies cooperate to promote these priorities, and how can these actions contribute to the central objective of APEC, which is to achieve sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia –Pacific?
7. Next, how can we promote the objectives of APEC for sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific.
8. APEC is a multilateral forum that includes both the US and China. It is more than 20 years old. There are many challenges in APEC but we should find ways for the bigger economies in APEC to work more practically to realise the potential of APEC.
9. Chile is the host economy for APEC this year, amidst the strong headwinds against multilateralism and economic growth. We note the contribution of APEC Chile in making support of a rules-based multilateral trade system a priority in its meetings. Thank you.
10. The latest report from the market put Southeast Asia internet economy at US$100 billion for 2019. It should reach US$300 billion by 2025. In 2015, the internet economy in that region was only US$32 billion.
11. ASEAN Member States have worked together to realise goals similar to APEC’s in creating a digital society. Last year, when Singapore was the ASEAN Chair, ASEAN ratified the Framework on Digital Data Governance (FDDG) and the ASEAN e-Commerce Agreement (Ae-CA). This year, ASEAN adopted the Digital Integration Framework Action Plan (DIFAP).
12. Broadly, these regional blueprints seek to build a robust foundation for ASEAN’s digital economy. The FDDG pushes for improved data governance, ie balancing the trilemma of cross-border data flows, data security and data privacy. The Ae-CA aims to foster a conducive environment for digital trade. As for the DIFAP adopted this year, it involves coordinating across several priority areas such as broadening the digital talent base, nurturing digital entrepreneurship, and enabling seamless digital payments. These are similar to the targets shared by APEC in its vision for a Digital Society that herald inclusive growth and integration 4.0.
13 An area we need to support each other is the updating of the multilateral rulebook for the 21st century digital trade issues. Examples of such issues are facilitating cross-border data flows and extending the moratorium on duties for e-commerce goods. To avert fragmentation of the global economy and to improve the ease of doing business across borders, having an interoperable, if not standardised, set of multilateral digital trade rules is critical.
14. An outstanding issue is how to reconcile the policy positions of major economies on data flows such as the respective priorities of the US, China and EU on cross-border data flows, data security and privacy.
15. In January 2019, Singapore, together with Japan and Australia, spearheaded discussions on e-commerce and digital trade at WTO. These talks are a prelude to the launch of actual negotiations that aim to update the multilateral rulebook.
16. There are also issues that could be discussed further in APEC and beyond. One such question is how sustainable growth agendas can be propelled by trade in technology and environmental goods, or more broadly, digital society and integration 4.0.
• Chile has recently been accepted as ASEAN “Development Partner”, being the second country after Germany obtaining this status. Taking into consideration the common issues faced by Latin America and Asia-Pacific, which strategies/ which areas of cooperation and which challenges does this new status as ASEAN Development Partner entail for Chile and for ASEAN?
17. Cooperation between ASEAN and Chile. We welcome Chile as an ASEAN Development Partner.
18. Chile brings with it a strengthening of ASEAN’s connection to Latin America. Chile has long made deeper ties with Southeast Asia a priority. It has been taking the lead in Latin American multilateral initiatives as well as its own bilateral initiatives. We appreciate this very much.
19. We should strive to utilise multilateral platforms like the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP contributes important work to future digital trade negotiations. The digital trade rules agreed on among developing and developed countries could indicate possible points of consensus or “landing zones” for wider regional and multilateral talks.
20. Between Chile, as one of the best performing economies in Latin America, and ASEAN, as the fastest growing region of the world, we have many opportunities to seize! In the past, the geographical distance between us was a big challenge. Today, the internet and the digital economy enable us to overcome this physical problem. We must capitalise on this technological progress and synergise the respective strength of Chile and ASEAN
21 In closing, I urge that we uphold the rules-based system and multilateralism to move forward and ride on these proven characteristics of international relations and trade. We should not detract from the need for increased cooperation across borders to focus on the other challenge of our age: climate change.
Last updated on 22/10/2019