Singapore's digital trade deal with the UK came into force today (14/6), making the agreement the city-state's fourth digital economy agreement.
The digital trade deal aims to advance end-to-end digital trade through standard digital systems for e-payments, and e-invoicing, and encourage digital economy participation by small and medium-sized enterprises.
On February 25, 2022, Singapore and the United Kingdom signed the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA), making the agreement the first digitally-focused trade deal ever signed by a European nation.
For Singapore, the UK is the city-state’s fourth digital economy agreement (DEA). Its other negotiated DEAs are:
- Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) – with Chile and New Zealand;
- Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement (SADEA); and
- Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA)
The deal aims to advance end-to-end digital trade through common digital systems for e-payments, e-invoicing, the maintenance of a secure digital environment, and encourage digital economy participation by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Further, the deal also provides a gateway for the UK to join Singapore in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), one of the world’s largest free trade areas that comprise 13 percent of global gross domestic product, or approximately US$13.5 trillion.
What are the key features of UKSDEA?
Advancing end-to-end digital trade
Singapore and the UK will promote and facilitate rules that develop a safe and secure e-payment system. This includes encouraging businesses to use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and adopting internationally accepted standards.
Through UKSDEA, Singapore and the UK can accept electronic versions of administrative trade documents, such as invoices and bills of lading. This will enable faster and cheaper transactions, reduce the cost for businesses, and help facilitate cross-border digitalization of supply chains.
Enable trusted data flows
Support cross-border data flows
Businesses in Singapore and the UK can transfer information more seamlessly under UKSDEA, even information held by financial institutions.
Prohibiting data localization
Singapore and the UK will put in place initiatives against requirements for data localization and allow businesses to choose where they store their data.
Singapore and the UK will ensure the access, maintenance repair, and minimized risks to submarine cable systems, which form a critical part of digital infrastructure that provides connectivity between countries and regions.
Open government information
Both countries will ensure that government information is available to the public in a readable format and easy-to-use APIs. Both governments hope this will remove barriers for SMEs to participate in the digital economy.
Facilitating trust in the digital system and participation in the digital economy
Singapore and the UK will remove the requirement regarding the access and transfer of related technologies as a condition of market access for goods and services. This ensures private keys and companies using cryptography are protected and can trust the market in which they operate.
Source code protection
The UKSDEA will ensure that source code developers are protected and neither country will require the transfer of, or access to, source code as a condition for market access. This includes algorithms expressed within the source code.
Online consumer protection
Both countries will adopt and maintain laws that guard against fraudulent or deceptive conduct that causes harm to online commercial activities.
Singapore and the UK seek to promote growth for SMEs and encourage their participation in the digital economy, such as through e-commerce platforms that will link them with global supply chains.
New MoUs in digital trade facilitation
In addition to UKSDEA, Singapore and the UK signed three memoranda of understandings (MoUs) in the areas of cyber security cooperation, digital trade facilitation, and digital identities cooperation.
Cyber security cooperation
The cyber security cooperation MoU acknowledges the common interest between Singapore and the UK in strengthening cyber security and maintaining the economic and social benefits of open and secure cyberspace.
Both countries will look to collaborate in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and promoting cyber resilience.
Digital trade facilitation
This MoU seeks to unlock opportunities and solutions to barriers faced due to the digitizing of trade. The countries will look to implement pilot projects that will drive the development and adoption of digital trade.
Digital identities cooperation
The digital identities MoU aims to work towards the mutual recognition and interoperability between the digital identity regimes of Singapore and the UK.
A more reliable identity verification system will lead to the faster processing of applications, which in turn can reduce barriers in cross-border trade.