US President Joe Biden has a chance to shore up his country's trade alliances in the Pacific Rim. Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski

The talks under way in the US regarding a potential digital trade agreement with Indo-Pacific economies should act as a launch pad for a new era of internationalization, and now – after the “reset” button was hit because of the Covid-19 pandemic – it is a golden opportunity for this to happen.

The US discussions with Singapore, New Zealand and Chile on joining their Digital Economy Partnership Agreement should, at a time when the global economy is moving from a recovery to an expansionary phase, be a driver in bolstering cross-border relations, boosting the global economy, increasing employment and, crucially, underscoring how important digital alliances will become in the future.

Reports indicate the proposed deal could establish digital-trade standards, such as data usage, encompass artificial intelligence (AI) and electronic customs arrangements, and potentially include countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and Malaysia.

In addition, it gives US President Joe Biden’s administration a chance to set out its own trade plan for Asia and around the world, as opposed to imposing existing deals implemented by Donald Trump’s administration, reaffirming America’s role in Pacific Rim trade.

According to former acting deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler, a digital trade agreement would “get the United States back in the trade game in Asia, while it considers the merits of rejoining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).”

This was echoed by Charles Freeman, the senior vice-president for Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington: “We’re very much in favor of the negotiation of a digital agreement, particularly in the absence of TPP.

“We’d like to see some sort of forward-looking, rules-based agreement in the region, in particular as a model for a global agreement. We think the time to do it is now.”

This agreement is based on a modular style, permitting countries to join up without having to accept the whole deal. Adopting this approach could be vital in increasing momentum required to form an extensive digital trade bloc.

Indeed, the proposed digital trade deal shows how the US is intent on strengthening its ties with the Indo-Pacific region on digital trade, among other areas. 

However, it should also serve to encourage other countries in Asia and across the globe to focus on international trade and an international approach to the inevitable digital future. 

It should help nations worldwide forge ahead with their future-focused globalist agendas, which can only be expected to help them with their economic recoveries.

In China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing this week in Beijing that although he wasn’t aware of the potential proposal, “China follows the principles of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and remains committed to working with neighboring countries to promote regional development.”

In fact, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China have been concentrating on improving digital infrastructure and made considerable progress.

The strengthened digital connection among these nations has built a foundation to pursue digital economic exchanges further.

Moreover, investment from China in ASEAN is hot on the heels of the US within high-tech industries.

Nevertheless, with the inevitable digitalized future of our world, it’s essential to recognize that no one country can completely reap the benefits of digital trade by enforcing isolationist rules and regulations, segregating itself from global digitization standards.

Global cooperation is key to ensuring that digital trade reaches its full potential. Globalism reflects the continuing expansion and mutual integration of market frontiers, and according to a UN report “an irreversible trend for the economic development in the whole world.”

These recent talks could, and should, start the momentum.

Nigel Green founded deVere Group in 2002 from a single office in Hong Kong after discovering a niche market for expatriates in the financial services sector. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest independent financial advisory organizations in the world with offices and clients across the globe.