Technology- & IT-Law

ASEAN Digital Ministerial Meeting: ASEAN to expand digital factor

4th ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting 2024: The fourth ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting, a conference of ASEAN member states’ ministers responsible for technology, was held in early February 2024. The ministers will discuss AI governance and regional anti-fraud issues and sign agreements to promote digital innovation and business opportunities.

The annual meeting, formerly known as the Asean Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministers Meeting, shows how Asean is constantly evolving – also with regard to the EU! You can find this article in German in our German-language blog.

A document was published as an official declaration of the conference. It describes various initiatives and progress in the area of digital integration and cooperation in the ASEAN region.

Topics include the implementation of the ASEAN Digital Master Plan 2025, the promotion of trustworthy digital services, the development of standards for new technologies such as AI, the improvement of data transmission security and the strengthening of digital skills. In addition, the resolution emphasizes cooperation with global partners such as China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, the USA and the EU in the areas of digital development, cybersecurity and digital infrastructure development:

View of the EU

The following EU-specific resolutions were adopted:

  1. Endorsement of the ASEAN-EU 2024 Digital Work Plan: This plan includes the further development of the ASEAN Digital Index (ADIX) initiative and broader cooperation priorities such as artificial intelligence governance and facilitating international trade through interoperable electronic invoices.
  2. Appreciation of the EU’s contribution to ADIX: The meeting expressed its appreciation for the EU’s contribution to ADIX.
  3. Hosting and Cooperation on Guides: The meeting recognized the EU’s role in hosting the Reference Guide (first part of the Joint Guide on ASEAN Model Contract Clauses and EU Standard Contract Clauses) in May 2023 and welcomed the EU’s good cooperation on the Implementation Guide (second and final part of the same Joint Guide), which was presented at the current meeting.
  4. Data Protection Law: The meeting welcomed the ongoing work of the Working Group on Digital Data Governance (WG-DDG) to promote the adoption of the ASEAN Model Contract Clauses, which will facilitate smooth regional integration and create value for businesses and citizens. The meeting also welcomed the Implementation Guide of the Joint Guide on ASEAN Model Contract Clauses (MCC) and EU Standard Contract Clauses (SCC). The Implementation Guide identifies best practices that companies can apply when transferring data between ASEAN and the EU based on the MCCs and/or SCCs – it can be found here

ASEAN and the EU

The future significance of the ASEAN states for the European Union in a globalized environment is considerable in economic, technological and geopolitical terms. Economically, ASEAN represents a dynamically growing market rich in resources and labor. With an increasingly integrated ASEAN economy and a collective GDP that is growing steadily, there are significant trade and investment opportunities for the EU.

In terms of technology, the ASEAN region is emerging as a major player in the digital world. The active promotion of technologies such as AI, autonomous driving and cybersecurity, as expressed at the recent ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting, demonstrates the region’s commitment to technological innovation and its willingness to take a leading role in the digital economy. This opens doors for cooperation between the EU and ASEAN in the areas of research and development and technology companies. On the other hand, the situation towards the US is increasingly fragile, which will force the EU to look for at least complementary economic regions. Against this backdrop, European IT law is also becoming increasingly important in an international context.

In geopolitical terms, the ASEAN region is a strategic partner for the EU in an increasingly multipolar world. In view of the growing geopolitical rivalry between the USA and China, ASEAN represents a counterweight and an alternative partnership for the EU. This partnership can help maintain the geopolitical balance in the region and promote the EU’s interests in key areas such as trade, security and environmental protection.

Overall, the importance of the ASEAN states for the EU will continue to grow in the future due to their economic potential, technological progress and geopolitical situation, making them an indispensable part of the EU’s global strategy.

Key technologies

Various aspects of artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and cyber security are addressed as key technologies:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI): The ASEAN Guide on AI Governance and Ethics was adopted, outlining ASEAN’s approach to the governance and use of AI. The guide contains use cases for trustworthy AI and is intended to serve as a practical and actionable tool to support the trustworthy implementation of AI solutions in the region. It also welcomed the recommendation to establish a new working group under ADGSOM on AI governance, including initial work on generative AI.
  2. Autonomous Driving: The meeting recognized the completion of the Regulatory Pilot Space (RPS) project, which aims to facilitate cross-border digital data flows to enable self-driving cars in the ASEAN region. In 2023, the project successfully delivered results on mapping the barriers to cross-border digital data flows of self-driving cars/autonomous vehicles within ASEAN. In 2024, the project will continue to work with the industry to refine its findings and improve collaboration.
  3. Cybersecurity: The Meeting welcomed the adoption of the Financial Model for the ASEAN Regional CERT, which concludes the discussion on the implementation details of the ASEAN Regional CERT as a key initiative under the ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy 2021-2025. The ASEAN Regional CERT will further strengthen regional cyber resilience, including through timely information sharing, exchange of best practices and capacity building initiatives to increase the overall effectiveness of regional incident response capability.

The role of China

With regard to China – part of ASEAN+3 – the following positions have been found:

  1. Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding: A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between ASEAN and China on cooperation in the field of communications and digital technologies. This strengthens the partnership between ASEAN and China in the digital sector.
  2. Recognition of progress: Participants at the meeting recognized the progress of the Action Plan for the Implementation of the ASEAN-China Digital Economy Partnership (2021-2025) and the ASEAN-China Digital Work Plan 2023.
  3. Adoption of the ASEAN-China Digital Work Plan 2024: The ASEAN-China Digital Work Plan 2024 has been adopted.
  4. Development of a joint initiative: It was agreed to jointly develop the “China-ASEAN Initiative on Facilitating Cooperation in Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Ecosystem” and submit it to the 27th China-ASEAN Summit if appropriate.
China and ASEAN

The relationship between China and the ASEAN countries (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is complex and encompasses various areas such as economics, politics, security and culture. In the context of the digital economy and technology, as described in the said document, some key aspects should be emphasized:

  1. Economic partnership: China is an important trade and investment partner for the ASEAN countries. Cooperation in the digital sector is a growing part of this economic relationship, as both sides are interested in the development and integration of digital technologies.
  2. Technological cooperation: China and ASEAN are working together to improve the digital infrastructure in the region and develop joint standards and initiatives for the digital economy. This includes projects in areas such as e-commerce, artificial intelligence and cyber security.
  3. Political and strategic dimensions: The relationship between China and ASEAN is also characterized by strategic interests. While China wants to expand its influence in the region, the ASEAN states are striving for a balanced relationship with all major powers, including China and the US.
  4. Challenges and tensions: Despite the economic and technological cooperation, there are also tensions in the relationship, particularly over territorial claims in the South China Sea and concerns about the impact of China’s growing influence in the region.

German Lawyer at Law Firm Ferner Alsdorf
I am a specialist lawyer for criminal law + specialist lawyer for IT law and dedicate myself professionally entirely to criminal defence and IT law, especially software law. Before becoming a lawyer, I was a software developer. I am an author in a renowned commentary on the German Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO) as well as in professional journals.

Our law firm specialises in criminal defence, white-collar crime and IT law / technology law. Note our activity in digital evidence in IT security and software law.
German Lawyer Jens Ferner (Criminal Defense & IT-Law)