Chart of the Week December 18, 2020: ASEAN’s Digitalisation in the Age of RCEP


The highest potential for growth and recovery stemming from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is linked to e-commerce and digital trade. Particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the digital economy is a symbol for rapid and accessible opportunities to connect with suppliers, consumers, and partner firms. This week’s chart of the week uses online spending data from DataReportal to assess the potential areas of growth for ASEAN in the digital economy, with the context of the recent signing of the RCEP. 


  • Although online spending as a proportion of GDP for ASEAN countries still remains miniscule, there is very promising year-on-year growth in online expenditure.  
  • Amongst the ASEAN nations, Indonesia has online spending as the highest percentage of total GDP per capita, with online spending contributing 2.3% of total GDP per capita.  
  • Archipelagic countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines face a logistic constraint in expanding internet penetration despite boasting high e-commerce usage among its online population. Thus, the growth of e-commerce in these regions hinges on the countries’ abilities to extend internet coverage. 
  • RCEP includes a chapter focused on electronic commerce (e-commerce), in light of the increasing digitalisation of trade. The terms outlined aim to promote wider use of e-commerce between the nations and increased cooperation on e-commerce development and monitoring.  
  • The key legal issues to focus on in coming years are the protection of personal information of e-commerce users, data-related matters revolving around the provision of computing facilities, and cross-border transfer of information via electronic means.  

Graphic By Shu En LEE

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