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Digitising Singapore’s Trade Communities

S Iswaran, Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations, presided over the recently conducted ICC Future Trade Forum, stating that trade is the lifeblood of Singapore and that the country is committed to free trade. They are also deeply aware of the significance of digitalisation in defining trade’s future.

“As articulated in our Trade 2030 strategy, digitalisation is integral to Singapore’s plans to strengthen our value proposition as an international trading hub,” says Minister Iswaran.

Singapore had emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever before, but global economic recovery would have to with a perilous climate. He acknowledged that the nation has learned an important lesson from the epidemic regarding the significance of global commerce connections and connectivity.

Minister Iswaran believes that it is more important than ever for like-minded nations to work together to develop the international rules-based trading system at all levels, utilising bilateral, regional, plurilateral, and multilateral agreements.

He feels that it is important for nations to fully use the new opportunities presented by technology. For instance, digitisation can make trading faster, more secure, and less expensive. Also, the harmonisation of standards across jurisdictions will enhance interoperability and productivity.

Throughout the last three decades, international trade has supported global economic growth and enhanced the living standards of hundreds of millions of people. For the future of trade, digitalisation has a lot to offer, but still, more work needs to be done, according to Minister Iswaran.

Today, on average, each cross-border transaction entails the exchange of 36 documents and 240 copies between various parties. Less than 1% of trade documents have been entirely digitised. On the other hand, the lack of uniform standards to encourage interoperability is a major hindrance.

Additionally, uniform standards are essential for enabling data to move seamlessly along the supply chain and fostering interoperability across trade networks. Nonetheless, the lack of such universal standards has long been a barrier to international trade.

The digital trading strategy has multiple thrusts. The country has signed Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs) with five other countries to facilitate cross-border data flows and boost trust in digital trade. The DEAs offer interoperable rules, standards, and regulations, allowing businesses to conduct smooth cross-border digital trade.

Singapore is also striving to develop multilateral baseline norms on digital trade through the World Trade Organisation’s Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce. Singapore, together with Australia and Japan, is a co-convenor of this programme.

The JSI has 88 members, representing all major geographical regions and stages of development, and accounts for more than 90% of global trade. Singapore also backs regional initiatives to encourage digital trade.

These projects, together with others of a similar nature around the world, illustrate a shared objective formed of the awareness that trade digitalisation may generate enormous value and economic benefits. To enjoy the full benefits, however, these diverse efforts must converge in a unified fashion; they must mature into a global system based on harmonised standards that enable seamless cross-border digital trade.

Minister Iswaran emphasises that the nation can achieve this objective if governments and industry partners work jointly to increase understanding of the digital frameworks that are currently in place and to implement solutions. He added that Singapore is prepared to contribute to the creation of a digitised, more efficient, and resilient global trade ecosystem in collaboration with other nations and interested parties.


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