What are Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs)?
A Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) is a treaty that establishes digital trade rules and digital economy collaborations between two or more economies. Through DEAs with key partners, Singapore hopes to develop international frameworks to foster interoperability of standards and systems and support our businesses, especially SMEs, engaging in digital trade and electronic commerce.
The DEAs aim to build on Singapore’s extensive network of free trade agreements and other digital cooperation initiatives. They also complement Singapore’s leadership role at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as the co-convener (together with Australia and Japan) of the Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce (JSI).
Singapore has concluded negotiations on two DEAs:
- Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) – with Chile and New Zealand; and
- Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement (SADEA) (which has entered in force on 8 December 2020).
Singapore has also launched negotiations with the Republic of Korea on a Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA).
We hope to conclude further agreements with other like-minded economies in the future.
"Digital trade is a key source of our economic growth. Businesses that are able to navigate and tap on international markets in the new digital environment will have a competitive advantage. Singapore is a strong proponent of an integrated, global digital economy.”
- Mr. Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry
"Digital Economy Agreements herald a new era of global digital connectivity. With like-minded partners establishing clear and harmonised interoperability rules, and working together to address new issues brought about by digitalisation, we can create new possibilities for digital economies."
- Mr. S Iswaran, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations and Minister for Communications and Information
Why are DEAs important for Singapore?
The digital economy is the future. Digitalisation and technological disruption, accelerated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have transformed consumer behaviours and business models considerably and created new opportunities. For example, e-commerce has enabled manufacturers to reach consumers directly. The rise of platforms and apps with multiple integrated services from transport to finance and telemedicine have changed how services are consumed. Businesses are also increasingly reliant on electronic transactions and digital solutions, from sourcing to invoicing and payments. Secure and seamless cross-border data flows are essential to the growth of the digital economy and to ensure that consumer’s interests are safeguarded.
The digitalisation of trade has also brought greater attention to regulations which require the forced localisation of data or disclosure of source code. Fragmented rules on data protection has also led to varying restrictions for personal data transfer and increased compliance costs.
The DEAs aim to address these challenges to better enable our businesses, including SMEs to connect internationally with partners overseas.
The DEAs will:
- Align digital rules and standards, and facilitate interoperability between digital systems;
- Support cross border data flows and safeguard personal data and consumer rights; and
- Encourage cooperation between Singapore’s economic partners in nascent areas such as digital identities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data innovation. This gives organisations the scope to trial use-cases and technologies across different countries.
How can businesses benefit from the DEAs?
The DEAs establish common frameworks and rules for digital trade that will enable companies in Singapore to connect digitally with their overseas partners more seamlessly. The goals of the DEAs are ultimately to lower the cost of operations, increase business efficiency and create more seamless and easier access to overseas markets.
As a start, businesses in Singapore can participate in the following digitalisation initiatives. These are aligned to modules in the DEAs, which will help extend their benefits to their cross-border businesses and transactions when the DEAs enter into force.
- Artificial Intelligence
- APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) System
- Data Innovation
- Data Protection Trustmark Certification
- Nationwide E-Invoicing Network
- SMEs Go Digital