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Singapore, UK Sign New Innovative Digital Trade Agreement

Singapore’s Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, S. Iswaran and Secretary of State Anne-Marie Trevelyan signed the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA). The DEA is the most innovative trade agreement ever signed, and the first by a European nation. It will strengthen our trading relationship with Singapore – worth £16 billion in 2020 – by ending outdated rules that affect both goods and services exporters, making it easier for UK businesses to target new opportunities in both Singapore and the wider region.

The deal links two of the world’s most dynamic hi-tech and services hubs and will capitalise on the UK’s strength as the world’s second-largest services exporter. A third of our exports to Singapore are already digitally delivered, including in finance, advertising and engineering, and this deal will create new opportunities to expand modern services and help level up the country.

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, 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.

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.

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