Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan plan to link their e-commerce sites in a move that should smooth the flow of trade in Southeast Asia.
''When the pan-Asia portal is ready, businesses can look forward to a virtual business park where they can tap on information, do checks on potential partners in Asia through information searches and credit rating of businesses, and then connect and communicate with prospects in one place,'' said V. Mathivanan, chief executive of Singapore Network Services Pte. Ltd.Its partners are Tradelink Electronic Commerce Ltd. of Hong Kong and Trade-Van Information Services Co. of Taiwan. All operate as commercial entities but have varying degrees of government support or franchises.
Justin Yue, chief executive of Tradelink, said the pan-Asia portal could be launched by the end of the year.
''The gain of the alliance should not be limited to the three markets,'' a spokesman said. ''Ultimately, the potential is there to connect all major Asian markets.''
Under an initial accord, the three will work for mutual recognition of digital certificates issued by their certificate authorities for use in electronic documents exchanged among the three; cross-border marketing and interconnecting of services to create a regional portal; and staff exchanges to share experience and strengthen cooperation.
''There has always been a significant volume of trade among Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore,'' said Yue of Tradelink, which has the exclusive rights to all Hong Kong government declarations, most of which are now done electronically. ''We believe that by facilitating communications between our members this alliance will stimulate greater financial and time efficiencies and improve security for electronic commerce between our members.''
Ray Yang, president of Trade-Van, said the proposed interconnection will create a one-stop shop for completing trade document exchanges.
''In addition, security will improve with mutual recognition of each party's digital certificates with electronic keys,'' he said.
Digital certificates are issued by state-approved companies. They operate with electronic keys to ensure both sides are who they say they are, providing a certifiable and secure commercial link.
There is legal recognition of digital signatures in Singapore and the technology there is the same as that used by Tradelink and Trade-Van.
''In Singapore, digital signatures are used in finance banking, trade and logistics, and legal services,'' Mathivanan said. ''If you think e-commerce is not as secure, we are here to provide a cross-border e-commerce system. It's a simple message.''
Tradelink has issued over 160,000 e-certificates and has monthly revenue of between 20 million and 30 million Hong Kong dollars (between US$2.6 million and US$3.8 million).
The three existing networks handle tens of thousands of transactions daily, with North American buyers and sellers among the largest users. Current membership of the three exceeds 90,000 organizations, representing almost every company in the trading community of the three markets.
The three said their venture will benefit importers, exporters, shipping companies, banks and insurance houses and others in the supply chain by more closely integrating them.