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ASEAN officials to meet in Manila to draft e-agreement

Manila, March 1 (Asia Pulse) - The Philippines will host on March 2-3 thefirst meeting of the e-Asean Task Force, the regional grouping's high-leveladvisory body on information technology (IT), organisers said Tuesday. E-Asean Task Force chairman Roberto Romulo of the Philippines said themeeting will map out the group's work plan this year, including the drafting ofthe Asean e-agreement on goods, services and investments.

Manila, March 1 (Asia Pulse) - The Philippines will host on March 2-3 the first meeting of the e-Asean Task Force, the regional grouping's high-level advisory body on information technology (IT), organisers said Tuesday.

E-Asean Task Force chairman Roberto Romulo of the Philippines said the meeting will map out the group's work plan this year, including the drafting of the Asean e-agreement on goods, services and investments. It will also discuss its proposed website and define its working relationship with the e-Asean Working Group composed of government bureaucrats who will implement the Task Force's recommendations.

The e-Asean Task Force is composed of two members -- one each from the private and government sectors -- from each Asean country appointed by their heads of state. The group reports directly to the Asean economic ministers. The meeting followed last November's approval by the Asean heads of state and government during their informal summit in Manila of the private sector's proposal linking electronically all the 10 member-states to spur greater intra-regional economic integration. The approval included the US$100,000 (RM380,000) seed money Asean is providing under its Asean Fund to start the project. Romulo said that the approval was a "statement of commitment from the Asean leaders placing high priority on the creation of a seamless Asean information infrastructure."

"They recognised that information technology is the key to success of Asean in the 21st century," he said. Romulo noted that Asean's information and communications infrastructures are not yet fully in place. "Legal, fiscal and regulatory policies lack the uniformity and harmonisation conducive to the growth of electronic commerce and business," he said. He warned that failure to develop the IT "will keep some southeast Asian states on the wrong side of the digital divide and will put Asean at a disadvantage in the information economy of the 21st century." Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.