Asean, India should explore ways to enhance digital connectivity: Singapore’s Deputy PM

NEW DELHI, Aug 11 (PTI): India and the 10-nation bloc Asean should explore ways to enhance the digital connectivity to further enhance economic cooperation between the two regions, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat said on Wednesday. He also said that Singapore is keen to partner with India for better integration of digital economies and both the countries should enable the sharing of data and avoid data localisation. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Asean is a fast-growing consumer market with a growing middle class and a population that is increasingly digitally connected. As such beyond movement of goods and physical connectivity, it is also important for Asean and India to explore ways to enhance digital connectivity,” he said at CII’s Annual Meeting 2021.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that India and Singapore should facilitate offline and online merchant transactions. “As we harness the digital economy, we must enable the sharing of data and avoid data localisation and as more activities go digital as a result of the pandemic, there is even greater impetus to accelerate our efforts to integrate our digital realms and enable more seamless flow of data, services and payments,” he added.

Talking about India-Singapore free trade agreement, Swee Keat said that both the nations have benefited from the pact and bilateral trade and investments have grown at a healthy rate.

The bilateral trade in 2020-21 stood at USD 22 billion. In that fiscal, India received the highest foreign direct investments from Singapore, which was USD 17.5 billion.

“There is a significant potential to collaborate in new areas of opportunties such as fintech and sustainability… We must work closely to manage this very very agile (COVID-19) virus,” he added. Further, he said that the doors are open for India to join RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and Singapore will work with India, when it is ready to do so. On November 4, 2019, India walked out of mega free trade agreement RCEP as negotiations failed to address New Delhi’s outstanding issues and concerns.