Singapore, UK begin discussions on digital economy pact

Trade agreement aims to facilitate digital trade and new opportunities between both markets, including cross-border data flow and use of technologies such as artificial intelligence.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore and the United Kingdom have kicked off discussions on a bilateral agreement that aims to facilitate digital trade and new opportunities, including cross-border data flow and use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). The move follows similar pacts Singapore have already inked with Chile and New Zealand. 

The UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA) would make it easier to do business digitally between both countries, according to a joint statement issued Monday by Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

"This will include establishing forward-looking rules to enable trusted cross-border data flows, prohibit data localisation, and ensure high standards in data protection," the government agencies said. 

They added that the pact would allow for "seamless" digital trade and business through "interoperable digital systems", linking the ecosystems of both markets. The use of emerging technologies such as AI also could be explored, with cybersecurity collaboration underpinning efforts. 

In addition, bilateral negotiations would aim to tap both nations' respective financial hub and assess potential cooperation between the two technology ecosystems and opportunities for startups. 

Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S. Iswaran said: "As the first digital economy agreement between an Asian and a European country, the UKSDEA will also enhance region-to-region digital connectivity, enabling businesses to use Singapore and the UK as digital gateways to access new opportunities in Asia and Europe."

Singapore inked similar digital economy agreements with Australia as well as Chile and New Zealand that went into force in December 2020 and January 2021, respectively. These pacts included efforts to collaborate on e-invoicing, digital identities, fintech, AI, data flows, as well as trade and investment opportunities for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).


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