Review of e-commerce legislation harmonization in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Leveraging information and communication technologies (ICTs) is recognized as a key priority for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional integration, as reflected in the ICT Masterplan 2015. In this context, an area of high relevance is to ensure that governments, businesses and consumers are able to harness the opportunities for electronic commerce. Seizing its potential requires not only access to affordable ICT infrastructure and services but also the development of trust among users – such as governments, businesses and consumers.

The enactment and enforcement of relevant legislation in a way that promotes regional integration are critical steps in this context. The ASEAN has been pioneering among developing countries the harmonization of such legislation. However, while the legislative process takes time, the ICT landscape continues to evolve at a high pace. This makes it important to continuously take stock of progress made and to identify possible needs for further work and revision.

This Review is a joint initiative by the ASEAN secretariat (ASEC) and UNCTAD. It provides an up-to-date assessment of the current state of e-commerce legislation, maps prevailing gaps, identifies emerging challenges and makes specific recommendations towards furthering harmonization in different areas.

The Review is the result of constructive collaboration between the ASEC and the UNCTAD secretariat as well as active participation by all ASEAN member States. In preparation of the Review, two online surveys were conducted on legal frameworks for e-commerce targeting ASEAN member States’ Government representatives and e-commerce businesses, respectively. Two regional workshops were also organized back-to-back with ASEAN Telecommunications and IT Senior Officials Meetings (TELSOM), to which the outcomes of the workshops were presented.

The recommendations made in the Review are intended to serve as a basis for ASEAN to consider the next steps in its efforts to creating a harmonized legal framework for e-commerce in the region.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who has contributed in the process. It is my hope that the analysis and recommendations will be a significant value in the next two years as the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community approaches. Let me assure you of UNCTAD’s commitment to continue to support the ASEAN and its member countries in this process.