A UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement is a great idea
This morning, UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss signed a rollover trade deal in Singapore. According to the official press release, the Secretary of State said “This is an important part of our vision for a Global Britain that sits at the centre of a network of deals with dynamic nations across Asia Pacific and the Americas as a global hub for services and technology trade. ”
Truss and Singaporean Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing also announced plans to launch negotiations for a separate Digital Economy Agreement.
Earlier this year, Singapore has signed two agreements that set the bar high for digital trade provisions in bilateral deals.
The Digital Economy Partnership Agreement between Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, signed in June 2020, is the first digital only trade agreement. It has broken new ground in digital trade, complementing the multilateral efforts detailed above while going further for those countries willing to take that step. The agreement itself is open for new members to join wholesale, or for them to opt into various modules in the agreement. These modules include a number of areas that have never before formed a part of trade agreement, such as digital identities or digital inclusion. Earlier this year, we encouraged the UK government to seek to accede to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement to help establish its leadership on digital trade.
Following shortly after DEPA, Singapore went on to sign a further Digital Economy Agreement with Australia in August 2020. This agreement replaced the older e-commerce chapter in the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The DEA includes provisions not only in areas covered by CPTPP but also breaks new ground in areas such as creating a safe online environment, cooperation on competition policy, and clauses on submarine telecommunication cable systems. The deal is notably also accompanied by a number of MoUs on digital economy topics.
These two agreements provide the gold standard in digital trade provisions and the future Digital Economy Agreement between the UK and Singapore will place the UK at the forefront of innovation in this space.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Antony Walker, Deputy CEO at techUK, said:
“techUK welcomes the ambition to sign a Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) with Singapore. This will not only deepen digital trade with Singapore but will also help to strengthen digital trade across the region. This is a great opportunity for the UK and Singapore to join forces in defining a gold standard agreement in digital trade.
The UK and Singapore share strong ambitions in digital trade. This year, Singapore has concluded two state-of-the-art digital trade agreements, one with New Zealand and Chile (DEPA) and the other one with Australia (DEA). The DEA goes further than any comparable bilateral digital chapter, breaking new ground in areas such as creating a safe online environment and cooperation on competition policy. The agreement is also accompanied by a number of MoUs on digital economy topics, such as data innovation, AI, trade facilitation and digital identity. Given the fast-moving nature of technology, these additional MoUs provide a flexible and adaptive framework.”