24 September 1997
Source: Reuters

U.S. Pushes Internet for Trade in Asia-Pacific

SINGAPORE: The readiness shown by some Asia-Pacific nations to embrace electronic commerce will help ensure their economic success in the digital age, a senior White House adviser said on Tuesday.

"I'm very impressed with the extent to which Singapore and Malaysia both are embracing the Internet and the investments taking place'' as a result, said Ira Magaziner, senior adviser for policy development to U.S. President Bill Clinton.

He was speaking from the United States in a televised news conference linking him with Singapore, Canberra and Sydney.

Magaziner, who is shepherding the Clinton administration initiative for a Framework for Global Electronic Commerce, said Singapore and Malaysia had shown forward thinking in establishing guidelines for Internet trade.

Encouraged by recent meetings with the two countries' officials, Magaziner said he hoped all parties could work in the future as "equal partners to craft a total framework together.''

But he said governments should refrain from imposing new regulations that would stifle electronic commerce.

"We are hoping to get some kind of global agreement on what is a global signature, what is an electronic contract,'' he said.

Magaziner heads a task force involving 18 federal agencies advising on Internet intellectual property, privacy, encryption, electronic payments and technical standards.

The Framework for Global Electronic Commerce is a key part of the Clinton administration's agenda on trade and technology. It lays out principles and outlines a road map for talks with trading partners to ensure a free and open electronic market.

Critics say, however, electronic commerce is an area where the U.S. has a strong comparative advantage and is thus already well-placed to benefit from such an open system.

They say this is because the U.S. has a headstart in information technology and related products and services, with exports already totalling more than US$40 billion annually.

But Magaziner said: "This technology is going to be a boon for all of us...rather than holding back, the best thing to do is to accelerate your own industries in those areas.''

He said the role of governments and regulatory bodies should be minimal as bureaucracy often poses an obstacle to progress. The market should determine security, taxation and other trade issues, he said.

"With currency or questions of digital signatures, we think there should be private sector leadership,'' he said.

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