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    ASEAN’s Digital Economic Framework Agreement may be in place by the end of 2024

    Published On: 13 June 2024

    ASEAN’s Digital Economic Framework Agreement (DEFA) is advancing swiftly and may be in place by the end of this year, according to Gobind Singh Deo, Malaysia’s Minister of Digital.  

    Speaking at Asia House on Wednesday 12 June, Gobind highlighted the potential benefits of the agreement and said it would be a focus when Malaysia takes over as chair of ASEAN in 2025.  

    “We hope we will push [it] through by the end of the year,” the minister told business leaders at Asia House. “This agreement seeks to make cross-border trade a lot easier [and] if we are able to do this, we are able to unleash a huge amount of potential trade.” 

    DEFA, the world’s first region-wide digital economy framework, aims to accelerate ASEAN’s transformation into a leading digital economy. It focuses on fostering growth through enhanced digital cooperation and the interoperability of data and regulations. Talks on the agreement were initially not expected to begin until 2025 but were brought forward by ASEAN last year when Indonesia was chair of the group.   

    If an agreement is finalised and adopted by the end of the year it will be well ahead of schedule and have the potential to sharply accelerate trade in the region.  

    ASEAN’s digital economy is projected to be worth US$1 trillion by 2030, with some analysts suggesting it could reach US$2 trillion if the appropriate foundations are established.   

    Gobind heads Malaysia’s new Digital department, which was created in December 2023. He is Malaysia’s first Minister of Digital and will oversee an ambitious agenda to transform Malaysia into a leading high-tech manufacturing hub.     

    Speaking publicly at Asia House before a private briefing with Asia House Corporate Members, the minister added that a region-wide agreement on cybersecurity could also be on the horizon, with initial discussions already underway. 

    Gobind emphasised that ASEAN countries should “pull [their] resources together” and focus on ensuring DEFA’s implementation by the end of the year and ahead of Malaysia’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2025. 

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