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Opening Remarks by Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran at at the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement Signing Ceremony

Opening Remarks by Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran at at the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement Signing Ceremony

The Right Honourable Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, 

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Good afternoon. Let me start by welcoming Secretary Trevelyan to Singapore for the signing of the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), and thank UK and Singapore businesses for joining us on this special occasion. 

The growing and evolving UK-Singapore partnership

2. Singapore and the UK share a historical and longstanding relationship. Over two centuries ago, maritime links were first established by a British trading outpost here. This has since grown into a dense network of sea connections, including eight weekly liner services. Our trade connectivity is also underpinned by a modern and comprehensive free trade agreement – the first between the UK and a country in Southeast Asia. Such links bear testaments to the growing and evolving partnership between our two countries. 

3. Today marks another important milestone. We will be bringing our connectivity into the digital realm with the signing of the UK-Singapore DEA. The expeditious conclusion of this cutting-edge agreement envices the strong bonds of trust between two like-minded and digitally progressive nations. It also underscores the vitality and dynamism in our bilateral relationship, as we push the boundaries and secure our cooperation for the future. Allow me to share more on the UK-Singapore DEA is about. 

Not just bilateral but also regional and global

4. First, at the strategic level, this is not just a bilateral deal but rather one that also holds regional and global significance. 

a. By enabling seamless digital trade, trusted data flows and secure digital environments, we enhance Singapore’s and the UK’s value proposition as trusted nodes in global value chains. This enables businesses to use us as digital gateways to access opportunities in Asia, Europe and indeed the world.

b. Furthermore, the Agreement will contribute to global norms for an open, connected and secure digital commons. It sets a benchmark for high-standard digital trade rules, going further than earlier agreements in some areas. 

Tangible benefits for our people and businesses 

5. Second, the Agreement is a catalyst for our people and businesses to harness the digital economy for growth and transformation.

c. It will enable trusted data flows in all sectors, including financial services, by setting high standards for personal data protection, facilitating cross-border data flows and prohibiting data localisation requirements.

d. It will reduce costs and enhance efficiencies for businesses, especially SMEs, through interoperable digital systems for e-payments and electronic documents such as e-invoices and e-bills of lading.

e. It will facilitate a trusted and secure digital environment and thereby promoting participation in the digital economy by people and businesses. For example, online consumers will benefit from safeguards against fraudulent practices, while companies will receive protections for source codes.
  
6. Furthermore, we are complementing the UK-Singapore DEA with collaborative projects. To date, we have concluded three Memoranda of Understanding on Digital Trade Facilitation, Digital Identities, and Cyber Security, as well as two side-letters on FinTech and Customs cooperation. These are living documents that will continue to evolve with our needs and technological changes.

Keeping up the forward-looking momentum 

7. Even as we conclude this agreement, we have started looking into the next wave of cooperation. Earlier today, Secretary Trevelyan and I co-chaired the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Trade Committee Meeting. We agreed to start discussions on an investment protection agreement and develop a framework for green economy cooperation by this year. To expedite customs clearances for Singapore and UK exporters, we aim to put in place a Mutual Recognition Agreement for Authorised Economic Operators, also by this year. 

8. I would like to conclude by thanking Secretary Trevelyan for her partnership and support for the expeditious conclusion of the UK-Singapore DEA. I also want to thank officials on both sides for your hard work, and businesses for your valuable feedback, which has culminated in this high-standard and ambitious outcome.  

9. All that remains now is for our businesses and people to fully realise the potential of this agreement. And I am confident that they are more than equal to the task. 

10. Thank you very much.

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