Tap on new technologies: PM
THERE is “tremendous potential” if the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) can join hands with China, Japan and Korea in mining the opportunities of new technologies, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Nov 14).
Ramping up digital innovation across Asean will be one of Singapore’s priorities as it chairs the grouping next year, Mr Lee said at the Asean Plus Three (China, Japan and Korea) Summit in Manila.
The Republic hopes to do so by building up an e-commerce framework, cyber capabilities and creating an Asean “network of smart cities”.
Noting that China, Japan and Korea are already at the forefront of technological adoption, especially in e-commerce and smart cities, Mr Lee added: “There is tremendous potential if we combine efforts and take advantage of one another’s strengths.”
By 2025, Asean’s digital economy is projected to expand five-fold to about US$200 billion (S$272.1 billion).
Speaking at the start of the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the significance of financial co-operation between Asean Plus Three nations becomes “increasingly greater” in the face of concerns such as the rise of an “inward-looking orientation” globally.
This is to improve the “predictability of the economies of the region and the world, to mitigate vulnerabilities, and to maintain and strengthen the freetrading system”, he explained.
South Korea President Moon Jaein added: “We must take ourselves to a new level to realise (a) cooperative mechanism that provides protection and care to the lives of our members in the region.”
Mr Lee said that besides finding innovative ways to harness the opportunities afforded by new technologies, the Asean Plus Three mechanism can be strengthened by advancing economic and financial integration and all parties working together to maintain regional peace and stability.
“Regional security is the cornerstone of our growth and development,” he said, as he reiterated Singapore’s deep concern about the situation in the Korean Peninsula and condemnation of recent provocations by North Korea.
Asean Plus Three has been a “valuable mechanism” in the regional architecture since it was set up 20 years ago, he noted.
During tough times, such as financial downturns and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic in 2003, the forum has fostered collaboration and a “sense of collective action”, and nurtured co-operation in fields from tourism to education and food security, he added.
On Tuesday, the leaders adopted the Manila Declaration on the 20th Anniversary of Asean Plus Three Co-operation, which charts the priorities for the road ahead, among other things.
To advance economic and financial integration, Mr Lee urged Asean and its Plus Three partners to press ahead with practical projects of common interest so as to promote connectivity.
For instance, cruise tourism is a “particularly promising” sector where infrastructural and people-to-people connectivity can be deepened.
Mr Lee noted that tourist flows across East Asia are soaring, with China, Japan and Korea forming more than a quarter of tourist arrivals into Asean in 2015, an increase from just over one-fifth in 2014.
He added that there were potential areas of convergence between Asean’s master plan to improve physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity in the region, and the three partner-countries’ initiatives.