Singapore talks

UK kickstarts Europe’s first digital economy agreement


Singapore is a key digital market

The UK is the first European country to begin talks on a digital economy agreement (DEA) as it launches negotiations with Singapore.

More than two-thirds (70%) of UK services – including financial and legal services to music streaming and e-books – were digitally delivered to Singapore in 2019, worth £3.2 billion.

The DEA would remove barriers and open further opportunities for British businesses to deliver their services through digital trade. 

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and the Singaporean Minister S Iswaran will meet by video call on Monday to kickstart talks. 

Liz Truss: ‘we are becoming more flexible and nimble

A DEA would help cut red tape and ensure companies can trade more efficiently through digital technology such as electronic transactions, e-signatures and e-contracts.  

The launch is part of the government’s strategy to place the UK at the centre of a network of free trade agreements and enhance its status as a global hub for services and digital trade.  

Ms Truss said: “A cutting-edge deal with Singapore will keep us at the forefront of the technological revolution, ensuring we lead the way in digitally delivered trade and industries like fintech and cybersecurity. 

“We are already the second largest services exporter in the world, with a huge comparative advantage in this area that we intend to capitalise on.  

“We are becoming more flexible, more nimble and less defensive in our approach to trade. Our ambition is to make the UK a global hub for services and digital trade.”

Miles Celic, chief executive at financial services group TheCityUK, said: “As leading international financial centres and data hubs, there are tremendous opportunities to be gained from the UK and Singapore working together on digital trade issues that support and supercharge innovation.

“Working with like-minded countries like Singapore presents a real opportunity to develop a best-in-class digital agreement.

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“Digital restrictions are among the fastest-growing trade barriers. Over 50% 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.”

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