The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has launched negotiations on the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) to establish a cohesive and inclusive regional digital economy. A successful DEFA could double the value of ASEAN’s digital economy from $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2030. The framework aims to facilitate seamless and secure data flows across ASEAN member states. Harmonizing data regulatory frameworks is crucial to avoid vulnerability to fragmentation in global data governance. However, progress on data regulation among ASEAN member states has been slow and limited. While some countries have comprehensive legislation on data flows, others focus more on data protection and privacy. The adoption of data rules in free trade agreements (FTAs) is also uneven across ASEAN member states, with Singapore being a frontrunner in including data-related provisions. The divergent data regulatory frameworks in Southeast Asia hinder ASEAN’s goal of an integrated and competitive regional digital economy and increase vulnerability to global data governance pressures. The different models of data regulation from China, the European Union, and the United States could lead to distinct regimes in global data governance. ASEAN has an opportunity to overcome these challenges and set an example for regulatory harmonization through DEFA and establish itself as a rule-maker in global trade governance.

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By hassani

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