UK enters negotiations on a digital trade agreement with Singapore

UK International Trade Secretary and Singaporean Minister of Trade Relations will also meet digitally


Singapore and the United Kingdom begin negotiations today for a trade agreement in the hope of removing barriers related to exporting digital content and services.

The UK is the first European country to embark on this type of deal. Australia and Singapore signed a digital economy agreement (DEA) in December 2020 and a three-way agreement was made between Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand in June 2020.

The UK and Singapore are both digitally savvy economies, which makes it fitting that the talks will be done online between UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Singaporean Minister of Trade Relations Mr S Iswaran. There's no word on the platform, but we suspect it might be Teams.

The UK sold £3.2bn ($4.5bn) worth of services, including financial and legal services, music streaming, e-books and more, to Singapore in 2019. The two countries started scoping the modules of a UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement when they signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in December 2020.

Negotiations are scheduled to include securing and opening digital export markets, personal data protection, efficient customs and border procedures, IP issues like source code and cryptography, collective cybersecurity, and the future of digital trade in areas like fintech and so-called lawtech.

Miles Celic, chief exec at TheCityUK, said in a canned statement:

Digital restrictions are among the fastest-growing trade barriers. Over 50 per cent of trade in services is facilitated by digital exchange, but restrictions on digital trade doubled in the decade leading up to 2019. To ensure the future of open global services trade, it's essential that new agreements support the flow of data across borders.

The UK should strive to set clear ground rules for digital trade and build an open and robust framework for future digital trade and technological cooperation. Such a framework can then become a template for other key markets, aiding the free flow of data and preventing unnecessary market fragmentation.

The flow of data across borders is particularly of interest in post-Brexit UK. Since exiting the EU, the UK has sought out more trade deals in Asia-Pacific. The most recent was signed with Australia earlier this month to remove tariffs on some imported UK goods. ®

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