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Singapore, UK Finalise Digital Economy Deal

Mr S. Iswaran, the Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, and Ms Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade, helmed the hybrid signing ceremony to formalise the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSGDEA). While this is Singapore’s fourth digital agreement, likely to come into force in the next few months, for Britain it is the first. The UKSGDEA is also the first digital pact between an Asian and a European country.

The deal will boost existing digital trade between Singapore and Britain and provide new areas of partnership for businesses on both sides, ultimately ensuring their consumers are better served. The two countries have already started looking into the next wave of cooperation. The expeditious conclusion of this cutting-edge agreement reflects strong trust between two like-minded and digitally progressive nations

The new deal’s key thrusts include encouraging digitalisation of the entire trading process, protecting data used and exchanged in trade deals, and facilitating a digital environment where smaller companies feel their transactions are secure and consumers are guarded against fraudulent, misleading or deceptive conduct online.

The digital sector alone adds £151 billion to the economy and lifts wages, with workers earning around 50% more than the UK average. UK services companies already operating in Singapore are well placed to take advantage of the deal, including financial giants, telecoms firms or software companies.

The deal will also cut red tape for goods exporters, streamlining cumbersome border processes and replacing time-consuming and costly paperwork with e-signatures and e-contracts.

Other benefits include:

  • Free and trusted cross-border data flows. Data flows are vital for the modern global economy, enabling everything from more efficient manufacturing and supply chains to effective maintenance of jet engines.
  • Binding commitments that ensure individuals and businesses know their data, money and intellectual property are safe.
  • Strengthening the UK and Singapore’s relationship for financial services by ensuring data can flow freely without unjustified barriers and enhanced cooperation for innovative financial services. Financial Services trade between the UK and Singapore was worth £1.7bn in 2020.
  • A new partnership with Singapore to build ever-stronger cybersecurity defences against attacks by private operators or hostile states, which are a growing threat to individuals and businesses.

Singapore is a gateway to the wider Indo-Pacific region and the DEA will support our bid to join Singapore and 10 other nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Membership would mean access to an £8.4 trillion free trade area with vast opportunities for UK business.

In addition to signing the Digital Economy Agreement, the UK and Singapore also agreed to revitalise the existing FinTech Bridge, a move that will support innovative financial services and strengthen cooperation on emerging technologies. An enhanced FinTech bridge will help provide extra support for the UK and Singaporean firms and investors to expand into each other’s markets, so both countries can capitalise on opportunities in our advanced FinTech sectors.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, agreed with the Singaporean Minister in charge of trade relations, S Iswaran to accelerate steps towards a comprehensive EU-Singapore Digital Partnership. The partnership aims to strengthen digital connectivity and interoperability of digital markets and to facilitate digital trade and investment between the EU and Singapore. It aims to address secure and sustainable digital infrastructure, trusted data flows, data innovation, the development of digital skills for workers, and the digital transformation of businesses and public services.

The Digital Partnership is intended to provide an overarching framework to strengthen digital connectivity and interoperability of digital markets and policy frameworks and facilitate digital trade between the EU and Singapore. It aims to advance cooperation on the full spectrum of digital issues, including digital economy and trade, as well as key enablers for the successful digital transformation of societies and economies.

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