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Australia, ASEAN deepen links on smart cities and digital trade

Besides fostering smart city development across Southeast Asia, Australia and ASEAN will also support the use of digital trade standards across the region’s booming e-commerce market

The Australian government is investing A$30m in a new initiative to foster collaboration on smart city development and promote economic integration between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia.

Through the ASEAN-Australia smart cities initiative, Australia will help Southeast Asian nations develop cities across the region in smart and sustainable ways. It will also provide training and technical assistance to build resilient and competitive communities, including through the development of an ASEAN smart cities network.

Touting Australia’s world-class expertise in fields such as green infrastructure, renewable energy and data analytics, Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop said the country would also support efforts to advance sustainable urbanisation in ASEAN, as well as establish a regional urbanisation forum.

“ASEAN cities are growing at an extraordinary rate, with more than 90 million people expected to move to urban areas across Southeast Asia by 2030,” said Bishop. “When cities grow, so do prosperity, trade and economic growth. To harness these opportunities, cities need innovative solutions, smart planning and good governance.”

Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that there were clear synergies between the ASEAN-Australia smart cities initiative and ASEAN’s own smart cities network. “We look forward to working with Australia and its businesses on these initiatives to improve the lives and livelihoods of our people,” he said.

The announcement of the initiative came at the tail end of the recent ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney, where leaders from both sides agreed to tackle a range of geopolitical and security issues, as well as to boost trade, investment and business links.

These include deepening cooperation on cyber security and digital trade, and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment consistent with each state’s respective domestic laws and regulations.

According to a joint statement, Australian and ASEAN leaders said they will also “promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth and prosperity, through supporting digital trade, entrepreneurship, help developing a digital-ready workforce, and promoting our region’s further integration into the global marketplace”.

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To achieve this, a digital standards cooperation initiative was launched to support the development, adoption and use of international digital trade standards, reducing costs for Australian businesses when exporting and importing products and services.

“This will mean that a local business in Geelong or Townsville will be able to better access export markets in our region, which is home to more than 600 million consumers,” said Michaelia Cash, Australia’s minister for jobs and innovation.

“The growth of ASEAN as an e-commerce market is outpacing global averages. Taken as a whole, ASEAN is expected to grow above 5.4% each year for the next decade and beyond. This growth creates immense opportunity for Australian businesses looking to sell their products and services online,” she added.

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