Singapore signs partnership pact with EU to boost connectivity between their digital markets

SINGAPORE – Singapore and the European Union have signed an agreement that will lead to a digital trade pact to enable consumers and businesses to transact online more seamlessly and at lower costs.

The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership (EUSDP) inked in Brussels on Wednesday aims to boost participation in the digital economy by imparting relevant skills to workers in both jurisdictions and transforming their businesses and public services, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

Other areas of collaboration include digital trade facilitation, trusted data flows, electronic payments and standards. The deal will also focus on emerging areas such as artificial intelligence, digital identities, and 5G/6G communication networks.

The EUSDP was signed by Singapore’s Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, Mr S Iswaran, and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton.

The signing follows the announcement late last year that negotiations on the agreement had largely been completed.

Minister Iswaran said: “The EUSDP strengthens connectivity and interoperability between the digital markets of the EU and Singapore.”

As a first step towards a bilateral digital trade agreement,. a set of Digital Trade Principles was also agreed on Wednesday.

These are designed to provide a common framework for digital strategies, which will in turn contribute to the ongoing global discussions on establishing rules regarding electronic commerce.

The yet-to-be-signed digital trade agreement will facilitate cross-border data flows, enable cost savings through the use of electronic trade documentation and authentication, and ensure that consumers enjoy greater online consumer protection when purchasing goods and services online.

Minister Iswaran, in a video call with the local media from Brussels, said: “There is a clear desire on the part of all parties to commence the negotiations …. as early as possible this year.”

Singapore and the EU are already major trading partners. Their EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement entered into force in November 2019.

The MTI said the EU is Singapore’s fourth largest goods trade partner globally. In 2021, bilateral trade in goods came to $102 billion, representing 8.8 per cent of Singapore’s total goods trade.

The EU is also Singapore’s second largest services trade partner globally, with bilateral trade in services exceeding $67 billion, and Singapore’s second largest foreign investor.

Digital economy and partnership agreements are Singapore’s way to build on its extensive network of free-trade agreements and other digital cooperation initiatives. They also complement the nation’s role at the World Trade Organisation as the co-convener, together with Australia and Japan, of the Joint Statement Initiative on e-commerce.

Such pacts have become imperative as digitalisation and technological disruptions transform consumer behaviours and business models, while at the same time create new opportunities.

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