“The EU’s digital connectivity agenda in Southeast Asia and the benefits of coordination with Japan”, Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Clingendael Institute, The Netherlands)

This policy brief develops the argument for strengthening cooperation between the EU and Southeast Asia in the field of digital connectivity and considers the added value of working with Japan as a like-minded partner in this part of the Indo-Pacific. Coordinated action will serve the long-term interests of the EU, ASEAN and their member states, promoting economic competitiveness and inclusive growth, and resilience, openness and freedom in the digital realm. A future partnership should focus on: (1) digital infrastructure; (2) data governance and digital trade regulation; and (3) the digital economy and financial technologies (fintech). Improved synergies are needed with other key players in the region that share European concerns about creeping digital authoritarianism in order to make the most of the relatively limited funds and action that each actor can bring to the region. All three sides stand to benefit from greater coordination between the EU and Japan, the two preferred and most trusted strategic partners of ASEAN, to hedge against the uncertainties in the US-China strategic rivalry.

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