Business group touts 'single market' plan for South-east Asian e-commerce industry

INDUSTRY players have called for an "Asean single e-commerce market", which could reportedly boost revenue and financial inclusion for small businesses.

Simplified customs procedures for low-value goods, a regional locker network open to logistics players, and even a pilot for land-based cross-border trucking were among the proposals for a potential integrated ecosystem.

This is according to a digital economy report from the US-Asean Business Council (US-ABC), released on Wednesday after a joint workshop with the Asean Coordinating Committee on Electronic Commerce (ACCEC).

For instance, an e-commerce land connectivity pilot, which would offer pre-clearance and green lanes for long-haul truckers on the Asean Highway Network, could streamline supply chains, reduce emissions and improve transport times and costs.

Suggestions like this fell under a road map for seamless connectivity in regional e-commerce supply chains - one of four priority areas in the report.

Meanwhile, institutional support could come in the form of an Asean-wide e-commerce association, and more public-private dialogue, the report suggested.

The US-ABC also called for efforts to enhance recognition with a trust mark for sellers and traders, as well as coordinated capacity-building plans for the e-commerce workforce and enterprises.

This is even as e-commerce would give merchants access to new, cross-border markets; it would also lower entry barriers for small businesses, and enable economic inclusion for groups that did not previously take part in the formal economy, said the report.

But "for Asean to not get left behind, we need to think of practical and commercially viable ways to facilitate cross-border e-commerce and promote regional integration".

Alexander Feldman, US-ABC chairman, president and chief executive, said in a statement that with the Covid-19 pandemic already accelerating digital transformation, there are "tremendous opportunities for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), micro-entrepreneurs, fintech players as well as consumers".

Siti Hairmi Ibrahim, chair of the ACCEC, also called South-east Asia "a promising region for inclusive and sustainable growth powered by e-commerce".

The bloc will thus work on a harmonised approach to put in place regional e-commerce initiatives, she added.