Singapore concludes talks on digital trade agreement with Chile, New Zealand

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, New Zealand's Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker (right) and Chile's Vice-Minister for Trade Rodrigo Yanez signed a joint statement on the substantial conclusion of the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement negotiations. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

SINGAPORE - Singapore, Chile and New Zealand concluded talks on an agreement over a common set of rules, standards and guidelines for global digital trade and commerce.

The three countries jointly announced the substantial conclusion of the negotiations for the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (Depa) in Singapore on Tuesday (Jan 21) .

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the three countries are targeting to finalise and sign the agreement during the next APEC meeting in April.

Depa will facilitate cooperation in emerging digital areas. It promotes interoperability between different regimes by aligning standards, according to a joint statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Infocomm Media Development Authority.

It also addresses new issues brought about by digitalisation, including paperless trading, personal information protection, online consumer protection, digital identities, financial technology, artificial intelligence, data flows and data innovation, and digital inclusivity, the statement said.

Mr Chan said at the signing ceremony: "As digitalisation changes the face of commerce and trade, we look to build new forms of cross-border linkages and create opportunities for our businesses to thrive in the digital economy."

The ceremony to sign the joint statement was attended by New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker and Chilean Vice-Minister for Trade Rodrigo Yanez.

Mr Chan said the deal will complement Singapore's network of free trade agreements and its efforts as co-convener of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce to develop baseline digital trade rules.

"Singapore, Chile and New Zealand enjoy longstanding and warm relations. The substantial conclusion of Depa negotiations demonstrates our robust partnership and will increase digital connectivity and strengthen economic ties between our countries," he said.

With rapid technological changes and digitalisation of business, financial and payment processes spreading at an incredible pace, governments across the world are waking up to the need for rules and standards for the digital era.

While cross-border e-commerce is booming, businesses still need to navigate challenges, from delivery logistics to secure payments.

Emerging data localisation policies are also threatening to fragment the global digital economy.

The recently concluded United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is an update on the North American Free Trade Agreement, was one of the first free-trade agreements to have a digital economy focus.

Last year's European Union-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement also includes some wide-ranging commitments on digital trade.

WTO's progress on the Joint Statement Initiative is probably the most significant pan-national work on digital commerce.

The Going Digital initiative by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is also aimed at building a coherent and comprehensive policy approach to digital transformation.

Singapore is negotiating a similar agreement with Australia. Talks on on Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement started last October.

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