Singapore, Australia sign digital economy pact

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing with his Australian counterpart Simon Birmingham at the virtual event. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing with his Australian counterpart Simon Birmingham at the virtual event. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Singapore and Australia have signed an agreement which will open up economic opportunities for both countries.

The digital economy agreement will facilitate digitalisation of trade processes and make it easier and more cost-effective for Singapore companies to engage in cross-border business activities with Australia, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Chan signed the agreement with Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham in a virtual ceremony yesterday.

The Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement (Sadea) builds on the two countries' strong bilateral trade and investment flows to enhance economic opportunities in the digital realm, said a joint statement issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

It is the second digital economy pact that Singapore has signed, following the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement with Chile and New Zealand in June.

"As Covid-19 forces businesses to consider innovative ways to reach customers and adapt to a new way of doing business, agreements like the Sadea will allow our companies to take advantage of opportunities in the digital economy and tap on new technologies to create new digital products and services," Mr Chan said.

His Australian counterpart, Mr Birmingham, said the agreement would help expand the scope of his country's economic engagement with Singapore, which is its largest two-way trading partner in South-east Asia.

"These are some of the most ambitious digital trade rules Australia has ever negotiated, and this agreement will serve as a benchmark for other digital trade rule negotiations within our region," he noted.

"The agreement builds on Australia and Singapore's leading roles in negotiating new international rules on e-commerce in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to better facilitate the growing volumes of digital trade across the globe."

Singapore, along with Australia and Japan, is a co-convener of the Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce at the WTO.

The Sadea will enable trusted cross-border data flows without unnecessary and costly requirements such as data localisation.

It will also protect consumers' privacy and businesses' proprietary information.

Singapore and Australia agencies will identify specific projects under the seven memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed in March this year, which will lead to tangible benefits and opportunities for businesses when implemented.

These include initiatives such as e-certification for import and export of goods, as well as sharing and verification of electronic trade documents using distributed ledger technology.

The MOUs also include a commitment to work towards mutual recognition of digital identification systems and providing access to data to promote the development of new products, services and digital solutions.

Singapore has also launched negotiations on a digital partnership agreement with South Korea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore, Australia sign digital economy pact'. Subscribe