The UK has signed a novel digital trade deal with Singapore

The UK’s International Trade Secretary has travelled to Singapore to sign a groundbreaking digital trade deal that will reinforce trade ties. 

The International Trade Secretary – Anne-Marie Trevelyan – today joined Singapore’s Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations – S. Iswaran – to sign a new digital trade deal, known as the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA). It is hoped that this will assist businesses in taking advantage of novel opportunities and lay the ground rules for modern global trade. 

Supporting business growth 

According to the UK government, the DEA is the most innovative trade agreement ever signed, and the first by a European nation. It will reinforce our trading relationship with Singapore – worth £16bn in 2020 – by putting an end to obsolete rules that impact both goods and services exporters, making it simpler for UK business to target new opportunities in both Singapore and the wider region. 

This exciting digital trade deal links two of the most dynamic hi-tech and services hubs in the world and will exploit on the UK’s position as the world’s second-largest services exporter. Currently, a substantial third of our exports to Singapore are digitally delivered, such as those in finance, advertising and engineering. This deal is to lead to novel opportunities to develop modern services and assist in the ‘levelling up’ of the country. 

On its own, the digital sector contributes a staggering £151bn the economy and also boasts significant wages, with workers earning around 50% more than the UK average. UK services companies already operating in Singapore are well placed to take advantage of the deal, including financial giants, telecoms firms or software companies.   

As well as this, the deal will cut red tape for goods exporters, streamlining cumbersome border processes and replacing time-consuming and costly paperwork with e-signatures and e-contracts. 

Opening up markets 

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie 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. 

“We are using our independent trade policy to strike these groundbreaking agreements that create high-skilled, well-paid jobs across the UK – paving the way for a new era of modern trade.” 

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, added: “The signing of the UK-Singapore DEA signifies the importance of innovative financial services trade between our two global financial centres and sets a new standard for cooperation through our commitment to revitalise the existing UK-Singapore FinTech Bridge, providing an opportunity to strengthen business support and deepen trade between our markets. 

“The agreements announced today build on groundbreaking Digital Trade Principles agreed by G7 countries under the UK’s Presidency and is the UK’s latest achievement as a pioneer in digital trade.” 

UK digital trade going forward 

The ministers also held the first meeting of the Trade Committee for the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, where they decided to strengthen collaboration on the green economy, in ways such as working together to facilitate the net zero transition in the wider Indo-Pacific region and reinforce the significant bilateral investment relationship between the two countries. 

On top of this, discussions will take place this year to investigate opportunities to bolster our commitments on investment protection with formal discussions expected to begin in the next year. 

Finally, the UK has now negotiated ambitious digital provisions in its trade agreements with Japan, Australia and New Zealand. On top of this, the country will be chasing developed digital chapters in discussions with Israel, Canada and Mexico this year. 

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