Asia-Europe forum underscores big need for global connectivity (China Daily)

Enhancing and strengthening digital connectivity is vital to reach common development and share the fruits of a digital world, said top officials and experts at the Asia-Europe Meeting High-Level Forum on Digital Connectivity.

By creating new business opportunities and significantly reducing the costs of transactions and transportation, digital connectivity proves to be a key force in driving growth, creating jobs and promoting innovation, according to a statement issued at the forum which was held from Monday to Tuesday in Qingdao, Shandong province.

“We should intensify cooperation on internet technology and data sharing and develop the Internet Plus industry to foster a ‘Digital Asia-Europe’, and advocate best practices in cloud computing application in the region to forge synergies across the industrial chain,” said the Qingdao Initiative issued at the meeting.

“We should encourage investment in the construction of cross-border fiber cable and other telecommunication trunk networks, increase broadband coverage and enhance service capability and quality,” the initiative said.

Vice-Premier Wang Yang said China would make joint efforts with Asia-Europe Meeting members to help build information infrastructure, enable countries develop digital economies, and bridge the digital divide.

“China will expand opening-up in areas such as telecommunication and the internet in an active and prudent manner, and deepen digital industry cooperation with other countries,” Wang said in his keynote speech on Monday.

“China is committed to improving transparency and security of digital economic activities, to maintain fair and just market order and better protect legitimate interests of enterprises and users.”

Luigi Gambardella, president of ChinaEU, a nonprofit organization in Brussels that promotes bilateral digital and internet cooperation, advocates a “digital silk road”, adding that the Belt and Road Initiative requires a borderless cyberspace area where manufacturing-as-a-service or product-as-a-service can be developed and where big data can be stored and analyzed.

“Business in the manufacturing and logistics industries from all Belt and Road economies should therefore increase cooperation around standardization initiatives, improvement of the security and reliability of technologies and dedicate efforts on labor skills and organizational changes,” said Gambardella.

Participants at the forum also called for policies that encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to conduct cross-border e-commerce and integrate into the global value chain, and provide shared opportunities for both foreign and domestic companies so as to embrace better inclusive economic growth.

Arturo P. Boncato Jr, assistant secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines, said as the digital economy develops rapidly, digital connectivity and innovation could improve the scale of MSMEs further.

“Therefore, MSMEs need to learn how to take advantage of policies from different countries to break down trade barriers.”

Gao Hongbing, Alibaba’s vice-president, echo’s Boncato’s idea, saying MSMEs are becoming new market entities and energizing world trade.

In the early era of globalization when the internet and digital connectivity were less developed, large enterprises played a major role in globalization, said Gao, but with the help of digital technology and internet infrastructure, MSMEs can have the capacity to compete with large enterprises in global trade.

The Asia-Europe Meeting was established in 1996 to foster cooperation between the two continents and facilitate international dialogue. The two continents represent about 60 percent of the world’s population, GDP and trade.

More than 600 people from ASEM countries and international organizations attended the forum.

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