Commonwealth’s digital trade deal with Singapore begins

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday December 10, 2020

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham (AAP).

The Australian and Singaporean governments have officially commenced a deal that aims to make it easier for businesses and consumers in both countries to access digital trade opportunities.

The Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement will set a high global standard of rules for digital trade while transforming the way Australian businesses operate and interact with Singaporean businesses and consumers, according to trade minister Simon Birmingham.

“This ambitious digital trade deal sets new benchmarks, including simplified arrangements for the exchange of electronic trade documents, and new rules that will prevent unnecessary data localisation requirements, including for the financial services sector, and forced technology transfers which can stifle trade and investment flows,” he said on Wednesday.

The deal upgrades the digital trade arrangements between the two countries under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

It’s expected to lower costs and make it easier for Australian exporters to do business in Singapore in areas such as personal data protection, e-invoicing, paperless customs procedures, and electronic certification for agricultural exports.

Birmingham said reducing trade barriers and providing more export opportunities for local businesses was critical as Australia recovers from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“As Singapore’s economy continues to become more digitised and sophisticated, this agreement will make it easier for Australian businesses to connect with the rising number of Singaporean businesses and consumers involved in cross-border digital trade,” he said.

“Importantly, the agreement also balances digital trade outcomes with strong protection of privacy and consumer rights, providing certainty for businesses operating online and consumers accessing products and services.”

Read more: ABF and Singapore launch blockchain trial in hope of increasing trade efficiency

The agreement has kicked off two weeks after the Australian Border Force announced it had partnered with the Singaporean government to launch a blockchain trial to simplify cross-border trade.

Birmingham and Singaporean trade minister Chan Chun Sing inked the deal in August, following the conclusion of negotiations by the countries’ prime ministers in March.

Singapore is Australia’s largest trade and investment partner in ASEAN.

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