Policy Update 092

Towards an Asia-Pacific Digital Economy Governance Regime

Visiting Fellow, RIETI

Rebecca Fatima STA MARIA
Executive Director, APEC Secretariat, Singapore

Vice President, RIETI

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitalization of the economy, including healthcare, education, and services. As innovation and technological progress proliferate all human activity throughout the world, digital protectionism continues to increase, and multilateral rules are needed for the governance of the digital economy. As exemplified by the strategic competition between China and the United States, digital decoupling is causing fragmentation in the global economy.

In response to this situation, on March 23, RIETI, in collaboration with Australian National University (ANU), held a symposium entitled "Towards Asia-Pacific Digital Governance." The symposium brought together experts from the Asia-Pacific region, including the U.S., China, Japan, Australia, and Singapore, to discuss digital governance in the Asia-Pacific.

In response to the discussions at the symposium, experts from Japan, Australia and Singapore jointly released a policy proposal, "Towards Digital Economic Governance in the Asia Pacific." The proposal argues that high level multilateral rules that limit protectionism in digital trade are important in establishing digital economic governance in the Asia Pacific, and that the rules should go beyond traditional trade issues to include issues such as "reliable data access," "protection of privacy and security," "competition policy," and "governance norms for new technologies such as AI and fintech." Middle powers such as Japan and Australia, as well as APEC, should take the lead in resolving these issues.

This proposal was co-authored by Shiro ARMSTRONG (Visiting Fellow, RIETI / Associate Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University; Director, Australia-Japan Research Centre; Director, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research), Rebecca STA MARIA (Executive Director, APEC Secretariat, Singapore) and WATANABE Tetsuya (Vice President, RIET).

The following people also contributed to the proposal: Wendy CUTLER (Vice President and Managing Director, Washington, D.C. Office, Asia Society Policy Institute); Deborah ELMS (Founder and Executive Director, Asian Trade Centre); Yiping HUANG (Professor of Economics and Deputy Dean, National School of Development (NSD) and Director, Institute of Digital Finance (IDF), Peking University); Bilahari KAUSIKAN (Chairman, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore); Peter LOVELOCK (Director, Technology Research Project Corporate); Joshua Paul MELTZER (Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution).

April 26, 2021

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