Singapore leads talks on digital economy pact

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who announced the agreement with his Chilean and New Zealand counterparts yesterday, said businesses that are able to navigate and tap international markets in the new digital environment will have a compet
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who announced the agreement with his Chilean and New Zealand counterparts yesterday, said businesses that are able to navigate and tap international markets in the new digital environment will have a competitive advantage.

Involving Chile and NZ, it aims to tackle issues such as e-payments, digital identities, AI governance

Talks started yesterday on an agreement initiated by Singapore to advance better trade in the digital era.

The Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (Depa), as it is called, also involves Chile and New Zealand.

It aims to tackle issues in the digital economy such as artificial intelligence governance, e-payments, e-invoicing and digital identities, said a joint statement yesterday.

The agreement is being spearheaded by the Trade and Industry and Communications and Information ministries and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

Depa is an opportunity "to set forward-looking standards on digital trade, and establish new international approaches to support the digital economy and trade in the digital era", said the statement.

It added that the pact will provide a benchmark for international trade rules that benefit businesses while supporting the digitalisation and internationalisation efforts by small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

VALUE OF NEW AGREEMENT

We believe that Depa will promote the adoption and use of digital technologies to drive cross-border trade... This would benefit our SME customers and accounting partners, many of whom conduct business outside their geographical boundaries.

MR KEVIN FITZGERALD, tech company Xero's Asia regional director.

Economic ties and digital links between the three countries are also expected to be strengthened by the agreement.

The agreement was announced yesterday by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing with his Chilean and New Zealand counterparts on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting in Vina del Mar, Chile.

Mr Chan said businesses that are able to navigate and tap international markets in the new digital environment will have a competitive advantage.

"Singapore is a strong proponent of an integrated, global digital economy," he said, adding that the agreement with Chile and New Zealand complements Singapore's network of free trade agreements.

Tech company Xero, which provides cloud accounting software for SMEs, believes Depa will provide huge support for its customers, with a common set of standards to facilitate secure and smooth transactions between markets.

"We believe that Depa will promote the adoption and use of digital technologies to drive cross-border trade," said Xero's Asia regional director Kevin Fitzgerald.

"This would benefit our SME customers and accounting partners, many of whom conduct business outside their geographical boundaries."

Mr Zhou Junjie, e-commerce firm Shopee's chief commercial officer, called Depa a "step in the right direction" as it will facilitate greater transparency and simplify processes in digital trade, which will enable Singapore businesses to reach customers in the region better.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore leads talks on digital economy pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe