Singapore starts talks with Australia on digital economy pact

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham at the ministerial meeting for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact in Bangkok yesterday.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham at the ministerial meeting for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact in Bangkok yesterday.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Singapore and Australia began negotiations on a digital economy pact yesterday, with an eye on creating a seamless environment for online trade that also protects personal data.

Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham announced the launch of talks in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the latest ministerial meeting for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact.

The bilateral Digital Economy Agreement, which will cover digital trade facilitation, electronic invoicing and payments, financial technology, digital identity and artificial intelligence, is expected to be finalised by early next year.

Both countries will also explore deepening cooperation on data protection and cross-border data flows, among other areas.

"With the digital economy of South-east Asia expected to triple by 2025, this Agreement will lay the groundwork for bilateral digital economy cooperation geared towards enabling our companies to tap on this regional growth," said Mr Chan in a joint Singapore-Australia press release issued yesterday.

"The Agreement will complement both Australia's and Singapore's networks of free trade agreements, as well as our efforts as co-convener of the World Trade Organisation Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce to develop international digital trade rules."

In January, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Australia, Japan and Singapore hosted a meeting for World Trade Organisation members to start talks for governing electronic commerce.

In May, Singapore, Chile and New Zealand announced trilateral talks to set standards for digital trade.

On the Australia-Singapore digital economy pact talks, Mr Birmingham said: "It will provide support to the global trading system at a time of regional economic uncertainty.

"By developing digital trade rules and standards that build trust and confidence, and by deepening cooperation, Australia and Singapore can set ambitious benchmarks for others in the region."

Tan Hui Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 13, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore starts talks with Australia on digital economy pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe