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Digital trade

Digital trade in the Asia Pacific


Published 23 December 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance on the online world to businesses and consumers. Despite the growing importance of digital trade, the ability of governments to tackle a range of issues of relevance to managing the online environment still lags behind the speed of innovation for firms. The digital economy agenda will be challenging to craft but critically important to Asia in 2021 and beyond.

As we move into 2021, what are the key issues facing digital trade in Asia? The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted global trade and up-ended many longstanding business models. Firms are rapidly shifting to develop or expand digital capabilities to manage highly altered supply and demand pressures. Despite the growing importance of digital trade, the ability of governments to tackle a range of issues of relevance to managing the online environment still lags behind the speed of innovation for firms.

Effective and efficient regulatory policies can support continuing economic growth in the digital economy. Given the overwhelming importance of small firms to every country in Asia, failure to create supportive policies will impede the region's attempt to advance sustainable and inclusive development.

This new paper from the Hinrich Foundation – the first in a series of six reports on digital trade in the Asia-Pacific authored by Dr Deborah Elms, Executive Director at the Asian Trade Centre – identifies eight issues that governments and firms across the region will need to tackle to reap the full benefits of the digital opportunity.

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

Listen to a summary of this paper, featuring Deborah Elms and Hinrich Foundation Director of Research and Outreach, Dr Andrew Staples.

© The Hinrich Foundation. See our website Terms and Conditions for our copyright and reprint policy. All statements of fact and the views, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the author(s).


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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