Globalization and Regulatory Change: The Interplay of Laws and Technologies in E-Commerce in Southeast Asia
Electronic commerce has brought about business and technological changes globally, and these global changes have given rise to major legal reforms across nations. In the fast-changing global digital economy, states need strategies to maintain competitiveness of their markets while simultaneously ensuring the secure and effective use of technologies involved in conducting electronic transactions. This paper examines how the use and recognition of electronic signatures are regulated in Southeast Asia—the region that has shown the most significant growth in global e-commerce in past few years. Based on a comparative analysis of the laws of four representative ASEAN member states—namely Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam—this paper argues that there is a regional trend towards adopting more liberal and technology-neutral standards for electronic signatures. Electronic signature regulation in Southeast Asia is now built upon limited technological neutrality (or the so-called ‘two-tiered’ approach) as a shared regulatory understanding, but this approach is operationalised differently in each state due to distinctive national contexts. Within the common legal framework, each state has developed its own system of control and management with respect to higher-level signatures (using advanced technologies). The principle of technological neutrality, a concept originally developed for the regulation of technologies in response to the liberalisation of telecommunications market, has been the central theme of discussions on the e-transactions policy-making scene. As the author shows, in the process through which states localise the global standards of technological neutrality, ASEAN as a vehicle of regulatory change has played an essential role in translating this principle to the national context.