UK signs digital trade deal with Singapore 'for quicker, more trusted access to lucrative market'

Fri 25 Feb 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News


Trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has signed a digital trade deal with Singapore on the final day of her Asia-Pacific tour.

The UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) is the first by a European nation.

According to the government, the deal will strengthen the UK’s £16bn trading relationship with Singapore by ending outdated rules for goods and services exporters, making it easier for UK business to target new opportunities in Singapore and the wider region.

'Services superpower'

Trevelyan said: “This digital agreement plays to our strengths as a services superpower and will ensure our brilliant businesses can build back better from the pandemic and benefit from easier, quicker and more trusted access to the lucrative Singapore market.”

As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, the UK and Singapore began negotiations on the DEA last summer.

Digital drivers

A third of UK exports to Singapore are already digitally delivered, including in finance, advertising and engineering.

Marco Forgione, director general of the IOE&IT, applauded the agreement. “In areas like electronic documents, digital authentication and digital customs, what is being worked on really is at the leading edge of global developments,” he said.

“At the Institute of Export & International Trade we are working with partners in both the UK and Singapore to implement supply chain digitalisation and simplification of customs procedures.

‘Not tariffs’

Forgione continued: “So many of the costs of modern trade are not tariffs, but delays and administrative burdens. The benefits that will flow from making trade easier and quicker through digitalisation will be significant.”

First for Europe

Singapore has already signed three other digital trade deals reports the Straits Times.

New Zealand, Chile and Korea have signed DEAs but the UK is the first European country to commit to aligning national digital rules and standards, facilitating interoperability between digital systems, supporting cross-border data flows and safeguarding personal data and consumer rights.

Other benefits include:

  • Free and trusted cross-border data flows
  • Binding commitments that data, money and intellectual property are safe
  • Strengthening the UK and Singapore’s £1.7bn financial services relationship by ensuring data can flow freely and enhancing cooperation for innovative financial services
  • A partnership with Singapore to build stronger cybersecurity defences

In addition to signing the DEA, the UK and Singapore also agreed to revitalise the existing FinTech Bridge to support innovative financial services and strengthen cooperation on emerging technologies.

The ministers also held the first meeting of the Trade Committee for the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, where they agreed to deepen cooperation on the green economy.

Discussions will begin this year to explore opportunities to deepen obligations on investment protection with formal discussions expected to begin in 2023.