The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) include a substantial number of the world’s most dynamic and trade-minded economies – from financial and production capitals like Singapore to emerging global supply chain hubs like Vietnam. Over the past decade, Asean’s role in global trade has increased substantially and steadily, with total trade among Asean members increasing by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2019 and value of trade with non-bloc partners rising 33 per cent in the same period.
Asean economies were further held back by systemic inefficiencies such as complex tax regime, e-commerce regulations and customs protocols. For example, customs documentary requirements are vastly different across Asean, resulting in customs delays that create traffic bottlenecks and increase shipping costs. These differences are largely due to a disparity in digitalisation between the member states. Although all 10 members have access to a common trade platform known as the Asean Single Window (ASW), only about half are currently using it.