Leaders, experts deliberate economic recovery at ABIS 2021

As the region recovers from the pandemic, ASEAN's key business summit focuses on digitialisation, trade and travel

His Majesty ABIS
ASEAN Chair 2021 His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei delivering the opening keynote of ABIS.

Continued cooperation between the public and private sectors within ASEAN and its dialogue partners are needed for the region’s recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, said His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

The monarch, who is this year’s ASEAN Chair said in the opening keynote of the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) last Monday that his country’s chairmanship has put forward 13 priority economic deliverables (PEDs) focusing on recovery, digitalisation and sustainability.

These deliverables are being initiated alongisde the ratification of the world’s largest free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – which includes all 10 ASEAN member states.

In the coming years, His Majesty said that the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 will be a “beacon” to further the “aspirations of our businesses and expanding their global reach”.

“‚ÄčIt is more important than ever for ASEAN and its dialogue partners to enhance solidarity and cooperation and to encourage continued engagement between the private and public sectors,” said His Majesty.

“Brunei’s PEDs show our determination in focusing our efforts towards the region’s economic recovery post-pandemic while leveraging on new technologies and digitalisation to ensure sustainable economic growth in ASEAN.”

A cohesive focus of ABIS were calls by leaders and discussions by experts on how to safely return to travel and increase trade, with the role of digitalisation in maintaining productivity during the pandemic also extensively featured in panel discussions.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for vaccinated travel lanes within the region to be hastened under the framework of the ASEAN Travel Corridor, which his government initiated last year.

While COVID-19 cases in ASEAN fell by 14% in the past week against the the global average of 1%, Jokowi cited the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s assessment of Southeast Asia having the highest level of pandemic-related restrictions at 82%.

An ASEAN Travel Wallet was launched at ABIS backed by an ASEAN Digital Gateway stored on blockchain. The prototype, a legacy project of Brunei’s ASEAN chairmanship by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, will enable travelers to show their vaccination records.

Each country would control their citizens’ data, while standardizing cross-border and entry protocols. ABIS Chair and CEO of Dnyamik Technologies Haslina Taib – whose firm jointly developed the platform with ConsenSys – called on ASEAN member states and businesses to begin engaging and deploying the wallet and gateway.

ABIS was hosted virtually and was attended by over 2,000 participants from 50 countries with the theme of ‘building our sustainable digital future’.

As the region’s premier business forum, ABIS saw keynotes from ASEAN heads of state including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Bin Yaakob and Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam Pham Binh Minh.

ASEAN’s dialogue partners also featured keynotes from their leaders including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister of United Kingdom Boris Johnson.