Singapore-UK digital economy pact to focus on cybersecurity, trade

Singapore and the UK have wrapped up negotiations on a digital economy agreement that encompasses various initiatives that include establishing interoperable systems for digital payments, trusted data flows, digital identities, and cybersecurity.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore and the UK have wrapped up negotiations on a digital economy agreement that focuses on digital trade, data flows, and cybersecurity. Under the pact, both nations will look to establish, amongst others, interoperable systems for digital payments, secured data flows, and digital identities, as well as collaborate on cybersecurity. 

When formally inked, the digital economy agreement would be Singapore's third following two others it signed with Chile and New Zealand as well as Australia

The UK agreement included "binding disciplines" of the digital economy such as data, and cooperation in emerging areas including artificial intelligence, fintech, digital identities, and legal technology. 

Common digital systems, for instance, would be put in place to facilitate e-payments, e-invoicing, and other electronic documents such as bills of lading. The goal here was to drive faster and cheaper transactions, reducing costs for businesses in both markets. intern

The two countries also would look to enable trusted data flows and data protection for various functions, including financial services. In addition, a "trusted and secure digital environment" would be critical to drive and safeguard participation for both businesses and consumers. 

For example, private cryptography keys and embedded algorithms would help secure an organisation's source codes, while consumers should be protected against fraudulent and deceptive online behaviour. 

For a start, government agencies from both sides last week signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) in digital trade, digital identities, and cybersecurity. Collectively, these aimed to facilitate cross-border services between Singapore and the UK, which bilateral trade services tipped at SG$22 billion ($16.02 billion) in 2019. 

Some 70% of the UK's cross-border services exports to Singapore in 2019 also were digitally processed, totalling £3.2 billion ($4.23 billion). The UK is Singapore's largest services trading partner in Europe and the Asian economy's second-largest European investor and European investment destination, with more than SG$100 billion ($72.81 billion) of UK investment stock in Singapore. 

Under the digital trade MOU, a scheme would be piloted to simulate the transfer of electronic bills of lading, with the aim to ease cross-border trade transactions. Digitalising this process helped cut cost and transaction time as well as reduce fraud. 

The MOU on digital identities looked to develop mutual recognition and interoperability between both countries' digital identity regimes. The goal here was to establish more reliable identity verification and more quickly process applications. 

In cybersecurity, the two nations hoped to build on a shared goal of "addressing international challenges" and promoting bilateral collaboration to bolster cybersecurity, including in Internet of Things (IoT), capacity building, and cyber resilience.

Singapore's Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S. Iswaran said: "Singapore's digital economy agreements build on and enhance the economic connectivity established through our extensive network of free trade agreements. Reflecting our shared ambition, the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement builds upon and, in some areas, goes further than our existing agreements. It will set a global benchmark for high-standard digital trade rules and benefit people and businesses in our two countries."

Negotiations for the Singapore-UK digital trade agreement kicked off in June 2021.


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