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Digitalisation, Trade, and Geopolitics in Asia

The papers in this volume “Digitalisation, Trade, and Geopolitics in Asia”, published by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s (KAS) regional program, Regional Economic Programme Asia (SOPAS), investigates how digitalisation is changing our understanding of trade and the international economy. It assesses the impact of digitalization to production, consumption, and trading patterns as well as national and multilateral regulatory frameworks (including those agreed in regional free trade agreements). It also looks at the evolving roles and configurations of economic actors (e.g. WTO, multinational corporations, digital platforms) and provides a discussion on the issues involving e-commerce and new technologies (i.e., block chain).

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The world is witnessing a sudden and swift global adjustment towards intensive digitalisation. This process started many years ago, however the current hurtling pace was not predicted to be reached until at least the middle of this decade. The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the world into a future that it is still preparing for. This is equally true for Asia. This region has, however, prepared for the impact of this shift, as has been seen by how many Asian countries have swiftly adjusted to these new realities. Indeed, without an existing digital stronghold, the pandemic could have caused far greater damage to economies, notably since the policy of lockdowns has essentially stopped physical movements and commerce.

This series of papers provides us with a picture of the state of digitalisation in Asia prior to the pandemic, and to a certain extent, during the pandemic. Written by regional scholars and practitioners, they provide a rich source of understanding of how Asian countries have been preparing for digitalisation, in the aspects of trade, domestic commerce, firms, industry and labour capacities, regional arrangements, geopolitical implications and individual country adaptations. Overall, the scholars fundamentally converge on the need to have a regional framework to govern the digitalisation process. This is primarily due to the differences in readiness, openness, capitalisation and regulatory capacity to manage possible benefits and costs.

The papers are arranged as follows:


  • Strategic Trade Policy in the Age of Digital Trade: Implications for Asia by Qian JIWEI


  • Global Value Chains, Digitalisation, and Digital Readiness: a Firm-level Analysis with a Focus on Asian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises by Upalat KORWATANASAKUL


  • Trade Finance and Block Chain Usage in the Asia-Pacific by Saon RAY


  • The Uneasy Relationship Between Labour and Digital Trade by Rogelio Alicor PANAO


  • Digital Trade in the Asia-Pacific by Deborah ELMS


  • The Impact of Digitalisation in Trade Patterns of South Asia by Aashiyana ADHIKARI

  • Digital Infrastructure Development Along the Digital Silk Road: How to Balance Digital Trade and its Security Risks by Younkyoo KIM


  • Framework for India’s Cross-border E-commerce by Sharmila KANTHA

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Cristita Marie Perez

Cristita Marie Perez KAS

Senior Programme Manager, Regional Economic Programme Asia (SOPAS) +81 3 6426 5041


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