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Digital trade

Increasing access and interoperability of cross-border e-payments in Asia


Published 07 April 2021

The cross-border dimension of digital payments can enable the digitization and internationalization of MSMEs in Asia-Pacific, a key pillar of the region’s socio-economic health and post-Covid recovery. Removing access, cost, and time barriers to effective cross-border e-payments will be instrumental in helping unlock the ability of smaller firms to become 'mini MNEs'.

Digital payments are at the centre of digital trade expansion and serve as a key enabling factor for digital commerce. It allows consumers to conveniently make purchases globally and for firms to sell around the world far more cheaply than ever before. Cross-border digital payments are particularly instrumental for the development of the regional economy and the growth and resilience of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) looking to thrive in a post-Covid pandemic environment.

However, even with innovations within the e-payments space and initiatives by governments to foster increased use of digital payments, cross-border e-payments remain slow, costly, and complex to manage. Policymakers often fail to appreciate the challenges of managing cross-border transactions. It is not simply that Asia is remarkably diverse with stark differences between economies, but the general lack of a regional ecosystem and supportive policy framework continues to hamper firms of all sizes and slow economic growth and development.

This paper authored by Dr. Deborah Elms, Founder and Executive Director of the Asian Trade Centre, highlights the opportunities and challenges associated with the management of cross-border retail payments and their relation to the region’s institutional and regulatory environment. She notes that without more effective solutions to the challenges of cross-border retail payments, firms will be unable to grow to their full potential and are at high risk of being shut out of opportunities in neighboring markets.

This is the second in a series of Hinrich Foundation essays on Digital Trade. You can read the first essay with the link below: 

As one of the panel speakers, Deborah Elms discussed on the opportunities and challenges of the cross-border e-payment system for small businesses in Asia-Pacific in our webinar. Watch it with the link below:

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Dr Deborah Elms is the Founder and Executive Director of the Asian Trade Centre. Dr. Elms is also Vice Chair of the Asia Business Trade Association (ABTA) and sits on the International Technical Advisory Committee of the Global Trade Professionals Alliance and is Chair of the Working Group on Trade Policy and Law.

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