Together with the other ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council Ministers, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez endorsed the Consolidated Strategy on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for ASEAN at the 20th AEC Council Meeting held via video conference on 18 October 2021.
The development of the Consolidated Strategy is a cross-pillar initiative in ASEAN that also involved the Socio-Cultural and Political Security Communites. It directs the ASEAN Community to pursue a “whole-of-ASEAN” approach in reaping the benefits of the 4IR amidst the challenges brought about by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also identifies cross-pillar initiatives in the areas of innovation and technology enablers, human capital, regulatory frameworks (including for e-commerce and e-government), connectivity and infrastructure, and inclusive and sustainable growth, among others.
“The unprecedented global trends such as the rise of protectionism, 4IR, and the COVID-19 pandemic, has made it more important for ASEAN to look into the gaps and areas for development that are crucial to address emerging global trends,” said Secretary Lopez.
The Consolidated Strategy seeks to establish an open, secure, transparent, and connected ASEAN that harnesses technologies, embrace innovation in transforming society and contributes to social progress and sustainable development. These altogether are captured in three focus areas, namely: i) Technological Governance and Cybersecurity; ii) Digital Economy, and iii) Digital Transformation for Society.
The Consolidated Strategy is also in line with the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) adopted in 2020, which serves as the region’s exit strategy from the COVID-19 crisis. The ACRF affirms the need to accelerate and ensure inclusive digital transformation as one of the five broad strategies to take the region through the recovery process and towards long-term resilience.
According to Secretary Lopez: “Amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital economy has emerged as a growth area marked by increased adoption of digital technologies for the continued provision of goods and services. Taking these into consideration, it is all the more important for the region to accelerate policies and initiatives both at the domestic and regional level that would facilitate the greater adoption of the digital economy and to make use of digital trade also as an enabler, as we accelerate the process of free trade and the reduction of Non-tariff Measures (NTMs) among our economies.”
In his intervention, Sec. Lopez also stressed the need to prioritize initiatives on human capital development and upskilling of the workforce.
The Consolidated Strategy on the 4IR will be adopted by ASEAN Leaders at the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits to be held on October 26-28, 2021.