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Singapore, UK Conclude Negotiations on Digital Economy Agreement

Singapore and the United Kingdom (UK) have substantially concluded negotiations on the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA). The trade deal – Singapore’s third DEA – is intended to boost digital trade and data flows, such as the promotion of interoperable e-payment systems and the prohibition of local data storage requirements. It will also encourage digital economy participation, through channels such as online consumer protection rules, and e-commerce platform access for small businesses.

Singapore’s digital economy agreements build on and enhance the economic connectivity established through our extensive network of free trade agreements. Reflecting our shared ambition, the UKSDEA builds upon and, in some areas, goes further than our existing agreements. It will set a global benchmark for high-standard digital trade rules, and benefit people and businesses in our two countries. The UKSDEA will enable businesses, especially our SMEs, to leverage a greater range of opportunities in our combined and growing digital markets.

– Mr S Iswaran, Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations

The agreement includes binding disciplines on cornerstones of the digital economy, such as data, as well as cooperative elements in a wide range of emerging and innovative areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), fintech and regtech, digital identities and legal technology. There are three key thrusts in the UKSDEA:

  • First, advancing end-to-end digital trade. The agreement will facilitate seamless end-to-end digital trade through common and interoperable digital systems for e-payments, e-invoicing and other key electronic documents such as bills of lading. This will enable faster and cheaper transactions, and reduce costs for businesses.
  • Second, enabling trusted data flows. The agreement will ensure high standards in data protection and prohibit data localisation requirements, including in financial services.
  • Third, facilitating a trusted and secure digital environment, and promoting participation in the digital economy. For companies, this includes the protection of source codes (including embedded algorithms) and private keys in cryptography. For consumers, this includes guarding against fraudulent, misleading or deceptive conduct online. The UKSDEA will also promote cross-cutting participation in the digital.

Under the UKSDEA, Singapore and the UK are also pursuing cooperative projects that provide a dynamic framework for bilateral cooperation on forward-looking and emerging issues. Singapore and the UK enjoy strong economic ties, with the UK being Singapore’s largest services trading partner in Europe. In 2019, bilateral services trade exceeded S$22 billion, of which around 70% could have been digitally delivered. The UK is also Singapore’s second-largest European investor and European investment destination, with over S$100 billion worth of UK investment stock in Singapore, and close to S$60 billion worth of Singapore investment stock in the UK.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, both countries have signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) in Digital Trade Facilitation, Digital Identities, and Cyber Security. Such partnerships make digital transactions easier, safer and cheaper, enabling businesses in both countries to seize opportunities in the growing digital economy.

These MoUs will further support opportunities to grow digital delivery of cross-border services between the UK and Singapore, provide a basis for working closely with like-minded digital partners, and help set a global benchmark on high-standards digital cooperation to bring economic and societal benefits to both countries.

The MoUs will also support the shared goals and key tenets of the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement, which seeks to promote trusted, robust and connected digital markets for people and businesses. The agreement will establish rules to enable trusted cross-border data flows and ensure high standards in data protection.

These partnerships in the areas of Digital Trade Facilitation, Digital Identities and Cyber Security between Singapore and the UK will strengthen the digital connectivity between our countries and will support the shared goals and key tenets of the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), where negotiations are ongoing and targeted for conclusion in the near-term.

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