ASEAN Economic Ministers initiated negotiations for the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) during the recent ASEAN Economic Community Council (AECC) meeting.
This agreement is the world’s first comprehensive digital economy accord covering the entire ASEAN region.
Additionally, the AECC meeting approved the Framework for Negotiating DEFA, which will serve as the guiding document for these negotiations. This framework outlines the negotiation objectives, principles, areas to be discussed, and the negotiation process’s timeline.
Key elements of the agreement
The launch of ASEAN DEFA negotiations follows the endorsement of the ASEAN DEFA study during the 55th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting in Semarang, Indonesia, on August 19, 2023.
The study identified nine key elements, including digital trade, cross-border e-commerce, cybersecurity, digital ID, digital payments, cross-border data flows, and emerging topics, which are expected to be addressed during the DEFA negotiations.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, expressed the region’s commitment to completing the ASEAN DEFA negotiations by 2025 and creating a sustainable and inclusive digital ecosystem.
“I am honored to share this milestone with all of you and anticipate close collaboration with each ASEAN Member State,” Airlangga stated.
Digital economy contribution expected
Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN, highlighted the significance of launching DEFA negotiations during Indonesia’s chairmanship.
He emphasized that a robust, forward-looking DEFA could potentially contribute up to USD 2 trillion to the regional digital economy by 2030, enhancing the region’s dynamism and competitiveness globally.
The ASEAN DEFA Negotiating Committee (NC), chaired by Thailand and comprising Lead Negotiators from the ten ASEAN Member States, is responsible for negotiating DEFA provisions based on the principles, process, and timeline outlined in the Framework for Negotiating ASEAN DEFA.
The inaugural meeting of the ASEAN DEFA NC is planned for the end of 2023, with subsequent meetings scheduled for 2024 and 2025, aiming to conclude the ASEAN DEFA negotiations by 2025.