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Singapore and UK ink digital trade agreements at Future Tech Forum in London

Such memorandums of understanding are all the rage

Singapore and the UK signed three memorandums of understanding (MoUs) this week, hoping to strengthen digital connectivity between the two island nations.

In a canned statement, Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information, Josephine Teo, said the agreement would "further strengthen the links between Singapore and the UK in digital trade facilitation, digital identities and cybersecurity."

Nadine Dorries, the UK's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said it would "reduce costs for businesses and make it easier for [the UK's] thriving impact startups to trade internationally."

The joint statement said the MoUs would "support the shared goals and key tenets of the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA)." The terms of the DEA have been in negotiation since June, but the two nations said they are expected to conclude in the near-term.

Seventy per cent of UK cross-border services exports to Singapore were digitally delivered, translating to £3.2bn, so it makes sense that the pair might strike an agreement.

The first MoU is to facilitate digital trade by sharing knowledge and implementation of pilot projects on areas like electronic trade documents and invoicing. The pair reckon this will be particularly good for small and medium businesses involved in cross-border trading.

The second aims to develop mutual recognition and interoperability between the two country's digital identity systems. More reliable identity verification begets faster processing of applications, thereby removing some barriers to digital trade.

The last MoU addresses cybersecurity and has the pair looking to collaborate on Internet of Things (IoT) security, cyber resilience, and capacity-building projects.

"As cyber security underpins the digital economy by promoting secure digital trade, the MoU will also build on existing workstreams between the UK and Singapore to build a secure and resilient cyberspace for businesses and consumers," read the two country's joint statement.

Dorries took to Twitter to celebrate the occasion that occurred on the sidelines of the UK's Future Tech Forum, where she gave the opening keynote address the same day. Teo's social media tool of choice for the event was Facebook.

Digital trade agreements have become very trendy lately. Australia and Singapore signed a DEA in December 2020 and a three-way agreement was made between Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand in June 2020. Chinese president Xi Jinping has even recently said he wants in on the latter.

In her speech, Dorries called the trade agreement "groundbreaking" and said she wanted to build on agreements on digital trade, infrastructure, and standards that had arisen with varying nations out of the G7.

"We've got representatives from every corner of the planet – from the Republic of Korea to Kenya, Finland and the United States, and I'm very excited about the UK's new Digital Trade Network (DTN), which is going to make the most of fast-growing tech markets in the Asia Pacific region," said Dorries.

The £8m DTN Dorries refers to is a three-year pilot programme designed to support UK business wanting to grow digitally into Asia-Pacific and take advantage of the emerging markets therein, as well as a few already established. Countries in the UK DTN include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia. ®

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