Semarang, 21 August 2023 (TDI):  In a recent gathering in Semarang, Indonesia, the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) gave their official nod to the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) study.

This study is a united digital frontier for the ASEAN region, transcending the confines of current bilateral or multilateral Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs).

The DEFA study, backed by the ASEAN Member States and supported by the Australia for ASEAN Futures Initiative (Aus4ASEAN Futures), reached out to the stakeholders across the ASEAN landscape.

The study has been enriched with diverse insights through a series of regional workshops, consultative sessions, and feedback from over 2,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and 60+ business magnates.

The essence of DEFA is to chart out a holistic pathway to strengthen businesses and stakeholders throughout ASEAN.

Furthermore, by amplifying trade growth, fortifying interaction, ensuring a secure online realm, and enhancing the role of MSMEs, DEFA aims to be the beacon of digital transformation.

Key areas like digital trade, cross-border e-commerce, cybersecurity, digital ID, digital payments, and even futuristic domains like AI are under its scope. A model by Boston Consulting Group predicts a threefold surge in ASEAN’s digital economy by 2030, potentially reaching nearly US$1 trillion.

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Moreover, with DEFA’s progressive strategies, this figure could further double, unlocking a staggering US$2 trillion for the ASEAN digital economy.

Dr Kao Kim Hourn, the esteemed Secretary-General of ASEAN, highlighted, “The culmination of the DEFA study marks a significant landmark in 2023, setting the stage for ASEAN to dive into DEFA negotiations. It’s a testament to ASEAN’s unwavering dedication to digital metamorphosis, propelling ASEAN businesses globally and heralding an era of boundless economic prosperity.”

Finally, the AEM meeting also gave the green light to the Framework for Negotiating ASEAN DEFA, setting the stage for DEFA negotiations to kick off by 2023.

The official launch of these negotiations is eagerly anticipated at the 23rd ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council meeting, with formal recognition expected at the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta come September 2023.