HANOI - Asean is in a good position to seize the opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring, and is already taking steps to do so, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Sept 12).
He was speaking at the opening plenary session of the World Economic Forum on Asean.
During the session, other regional leaders, including Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Chinese Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua also spoke about the key concerns and choices facing the region in an era of technological disruption.
In his speech, PM Lee outlined some of the initiatives Asean has taken to use technology to benefit its businesses and people.
These include an Asean Agreement on E-Commerce that will streamline regulations so that businesses can market and sell their products easily within Asean, and an Asean Single Window that will expedite cross-border customs cargo clearance to cut transaction costs using a single online platform.
The Asean Smart Cities Network, which Singapore is spearheading as Asean chair this year, has completed its first round of meetings and launched several projects, PM Lee noted.
The network is a platform for cities to cooperate, share experiences and work with external partners as well as the private sector on smart city initiatives.
One of the projects that has been launched is a collaboration between Chonburi's Amata Smart City in Thailand and the Yokohama Urban Solution Alliance on a smart energy management system.
On a bilateral level, Singapore and Vietnam have also established seven industrial parks, PM Lee noted.
"They are doing well, bringing in more than US$11 billion worth of investment capital from 800 international companies, generating more than 200,000 jobs," he said.
PM Lee also stressed that further economic integration within Asean is an important condition for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, "because it is about building networks, creating new synergies and staying connected".
As part of efforts to boost economic integration, Asean is working with like-minded partners to strengthen the open and rules-based multilateral trading system, he added.
"This system has underpinned our growth and stability, but is under pressure, and even threat," he said.
This is why Asean is doing its utmost to make progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a major trade deal involving Asean and six trading partners.
"We hope to achieve a substantial conclusion by the end of this year, though this is not yet assured," he said.
The completion of the RCEP would create the world's largest trading bloc, covering one-third of global gross domestic product and a quarter of its exports.
Before the plenary, PM Lee met Mr Phuc. Both leaders reaffirmed the warm ties between Singapore and Vietnam, and exchanged views on regional and global developments.
They also agreed on the importance of bringing the RCEP to a substantive conclusion this year.