Singapore’s deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat. (Florence Lo – Pool/Getty Images)
INDIA and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should explore new ways to enhance the digital connectivity and boost economic cooperation between the two regions, Singapore’s deputy prime minister and coordinating minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat.
Both the nations should facilitate sharing of data and avoid data localisation, he said while addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) annual meeting 2021 on Wednesday (11).
“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,” Swee Keat said.
ASEAN members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“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.
On 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 good rate.
The bilateral trade in 2020-21 stood at $22 billion (£15.9bn), with India receiving the highest foreign direct investments from Singapore worth $17.5bn (£12.6bn).
“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.
He also indicated that the doors are open for India to join RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and Singapore will work with India, when it is willing to do so.
On November 4, 2019, India had walked out of RCEP free trade agreement as negotiations failed to address New Delhi’s concerns.