Asian Economic Integration Report 2021

Making Digital Platforms Work for Asia and the Pacific

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted both supply and demand sides of an interconnected world economy during 2020. Asia and the Pacific was not immune as lockdowns and travel and trade restrictions affected nearly all aspects of cross-border economic activity. The Asian Economic Integration Report (AEIR) 2021 examines the initial impact on trade, investment, finance, and people’s mobility across the region as the pandemic struck. The report looks at how regional economies individually or collectively respond to the crisis by, for example, leveraging rapid technological progress, digitalization, and increasing services trade to reconnect and recover. This year’s AEIR theme chapter is on digital platforms and how they can accelerate digital transformation across the region.

  • With the rise of digital platforms, new business models have proliferated, offering enormous economic opportunities.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation for businesses of all sizes and across all industries.

  • COVID-19 has weighed heavily on health and economic systems worldwide; it severely disrupted Asia’s cross-border trade and economic activities, and exposed vulnerabilities of global supply chains.

  • The pandemic caused investment flows to plummet globally through March 2020. Asian economies were among the hardest hit globally in reduced FDI inflows during the first quarter of 2020.

  • COVID-19-induced economic slowdowns in the first quarter of 2020 led to a shift in investor risk appetite and increased financial volatility; this resulted in a flight to safety and tightened liquidity conditions for emerging market economies.

  • Tourism has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic; extensive travel restrictions and the fear of infection led to a sharp fall in international tourist arrivals in Asia.


Cover and highlights

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Managing Globalization and Regional Integration Post-COVID-19

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Trade and the Global Value Chains

  • Recent Trends in Asias Trade
  • Asias Intraregional Trade
  • Progress of Global and Regional Value Chains
  • The Impact of GVC Reshoring
  • Updates on Regional Trade Policy
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Cross-Border Investment

  • Updates on Foreign Direct investment During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Policy Updates: Regulatory Restrictions and Screening in Foreign Direct Investments
  • Bilateral Investment Treaties and Foreign Direct Investment
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Financial Integration

  • Recent Trends in Asias Cross-Border Financial Assets and Liabilities
  • Looming Financial Risks Stemming from COVID-19
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Movement of People

  • Migration
  • Remittances
  • Tourism
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Asia-Pacific Regional Cooperation and Integration Index

  • Key Regional Integration Trends in Asia
  • The Enhanced ARCII Framework
  • Technology and Digital Connectivity: A New Lens for Exploring Recent Integration Trends
  • Regional Integration in Asia: To What Extent Does Location Matter?
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Updates on Subregional Cooperation Initiatives

  • Central and West Asia: Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program
  • Southeast Asia: Greater Mekong Subregion Program
  • East Asia: Support for Regional Cooperation and Integration Initiatives under the CAREC and GMS Subregional Programs and Knowledge-Sharing Activities
  • South Asia: South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation
  • The Pacific: Crossing the Last Mile
  • Unlocking the Potential of Digital Platform Economies
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Theme Chapter: Making Digital Platforms Work for Asia and the Pacific

  • Introduction
  • Rise of Digital Platforms in Asia
  • Benefits and Opportunities from Digital Platforms
  • Challenges and Risks from Digital Platforms
  • Preparing for Greater Digital Inclusion in Asia
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
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Statistical Appendix

  • Regional Groupings
  • Table Descriptions
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Video: Making Digital Platforms Work for Asia and the Pacific

More videos at the ARIC Youtube Channel

AEIR 2021’s theme chapter analyzes the rise, opportunities, and challenges of digital platforms in the Asia and Pacific region, including their applications in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating digitalization, transforming how we work, socialize, and create economic value.

Today, tech companies play a leading role in the global economy.

They optimize business operations to expand markets, connect people, and empower small businesses.

Digital platforms also deliver essential services—including critical ones like health and education.

They provide credit to SMEs by utilizing data on their operations.

They also create entirely new jobs—unheard of just a few years ago.

Consumers, businesses, households, and governments alike enjoy many benefits from digital platforms.

However, digital platforms disrupt markets and businesses.

Increasingly, online businesses contribute to shop closures and the loss of jobs.

They also create gig-work with little job security or protection.

Regulators still need to resolve tax leakages.

And big tech erodes domestic competition for some countries.

There are issues surrounding loss of privacy, cybersecurity, and misinformation.

Also, the gap between the tech-haves and the tech-have-nots could exacerbate inequality.

Internet access must be made more inclusive across developing Asia.

Closing the digital divide, particularly for women and the elderly, is critical.

How can we all work together to ensure digital platforms promote inclusive development in Asia and the Pacific?

To find out, read the latest Asian Economic Integration Report.