Reconnecting ASEAN: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Trade, Transport, E-Commerce and Mobility of People
Prior to the pandemic, cross-border trade and people mobility were experiencing significant growth, painting a promising picture for East Asia’s thriving economy and connectivity. The cumulative growth of international travelers arriving at ASEAN Member States from 2009 to 2019 reached an impressive 170%, highlighting a strong demand for air transportation. However, the onset of the pandemic caused a drastic decline, plummeting to –81% by 2020. This severe downturn had devastating consequences for the travel industry in Southeast Asia. Government measures to limit people-to-people interactions further exacerbated the situation, leading to a sharp decline in regional growth from 5.2% in 2018 to –3.2% in 2020.
This report aims to document the economic hardships related to connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, it focuses on three key activities: trade (cargo), transportation, and e-commerce in five East Asian economies, including Japan, which is a significant trading partner of ASEAN. Except for e-commerce, the initial two years of the pandemic proved to be particularly challenging for all economies involved in maintaining their connectivity.
The report provides a compilation of stories illustrating the impact of the pandemic on these economic sectors, shedding light on the difficulties faced by each. It offers insights into the unprecedented challenges and disruptions experienced during this period, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of the East Asian economies.