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Singapore, South Korea formalise digital economy deal to drive interoperability

Digital economy agreement between the two countries aims to establish trade rules that drive interoperability and cross-border data flow, including in e-payments and digital identities.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor on

South Korea has become the first Asian nation to sign a digital economy agreement with Singapore. The partnership will look to drive interoperability and cross-border data flow between the two markets, including in the areas of e-payments and digital identities. 

The global trade pact is the fourth Singapore has established, following similar agreements with Chile and New Zealand, Australia, and the UK, to accelerate collaboration in the digital digital economy and improve digital connectivity. 

Under their agreement, South Korea and Singapore will establish digital trade rules and norms that promote interoperability between digital systems. These aim to enable more seamless cross-border data flows and build a trusted and secure digital environment for businesses and consumers in both countries. 

The two partners also will look to driver deeper collaboration in emerging areas, including protection of personal data as well as source codes, e-payments, and artificial intelligence.

For instance, the trade pact will enable businesses operating in both countries to transfer information, including data generated or held by financial institutions, as long as they comply with the necessary regulations and implement adequate personal data protection safeguards. 

Rules against data localisation also will be put in place to allow organisations to choose their cloud platform and where they want their data stored and processed. Both nations will further ensure government data made publicly available will be in a machine readable and open format, alongside freely available APIs (application programming interfaces). 

In addition, efforts will be made to drive interoperability between the two countries' respective digital identity system, delivering more reliable identity verification and faster processing of applications. 

Singapore's Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Tan See Leng, said during the launch Monday: "Consumers and businesses have benefitted from digitalisation, although its rapidly evolving nature means the risk for displacement and disruption is also higher. We need to navigate carefully and adapt nimbly to these changes, so that we can unlock the potential of the digital economy and seize the growing opportunities. This can be achieved more easily if we work together, as the growth of our digital economy and trade will be boosted by the closer cross-border integration of our digital ecosystems."

South Korea is Singapore's 7th largest trading partner, with bilateral trade between both countries climbing 26% last year to hit SG$56.2 billion ($40.93 billion) in merchandise trade. 

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