UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement has been saved
UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement
After six months of negotiations, the UK and Singapore have reached agreement in principle on a new digital economy agreement (DEA), which seeks to modernise digital trading rules for the benefit of goods and services exporters in both countries.
Although the final text of the agreement is yet to be published, the announcements made today indicate that the DEA could help facilitate more open access for business to the digital economies of both countries, improve competition and drive deeper cross-border investment.
The UK is the fourth country to sign a DEA with Singapore (following Australia, New Zealand and Chile), building on the existing £16 billion bilateral trading relationship and supporting the UK’s application for accession to CPTPP.
What’s in the agreement?
Once in force, the agreement will help to facilitate a more secure digital environment, enable trusted data flows and support end-to-end digital trade through the use of electronic documents. Specifically, it is expected to include provisions on:
- Electronic records: support for the digitisation of supply chains through the greater use of electronic documents, such as e-contracts, e-invoices and bills of lading, secured with e-signatures. The two countries will also cooperate on the use of single window systems to submit data to government and work towards the mutual recognition of digital signatures & authentication technologies.
- Electronic payments: clearer rules to underpin the use of cross-border e-payments, adopting high international standards, encouraging the use of open APIs and promoting interoperability between different e-payment platforms.
- Customs duties: a commitment from both sides not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions, so that businesses can continue to sell electronic content cross-border without facing tariffs.
- Data: free and trusted data flows between the two countries, prohibiting unnecessary restrictions on the movement of data, including localisation requirements. The DEA will also commit both sides to maintaining existing high standards of data protection.
- Cyber-security & digital identity systems: the DEA is expected to incorporate memoranda of understanding which acknowledge common interests in a secure cyberspace, establishing mechanisms to cooperate in deepening cyber resilience and support digital identity systems across borders.
- Source code & algorithm protection: commitments on prohibiting the mandatory disclosure of software source codes and algorithms as a condition of market access.
- Open government information: commitments from both sides on making government-held data publicly available to support innovation, in particular by SMEs.
- Online consumer protection: commitments from both sides to maintain high regulatory standards to guard against fraudulent or misleading online practices.
- Future tech: the agreement also includes a range of provisions designed to support key growth sectors such as AI, fintech, regtech and lawtech, with dedicated dialogues established to support each rapidly growing sector.
What should I be doing now?
Although the final text hasn’t yet been published, we do now know the broad scope of the agreement. By locking in high standards and liberal trading practices, the DEA stands to give greater confidence to businesses and investors operating within – or considering entering – the UK-Singapore trade corridor.
Businesses should be taking the time to understand electronic transferable records and examine the extent to which implementation in supply chains could reduce costs and improve delivery times. For some businesses this could mean greater efficiency – for others, it could represent the emergence of a potential new market.
Similarly, those operating within future tech sectors such as fintech should be exploring how this agreement could establish a more stable environment for deeper investment and help you establish a broader commercial footprint.
To understand more about the provisions in this agreement, identify how you could capitalise on the changing trading landscape and assess your priorities, our specialists are on hand to help.