Opening Remarks by Minister S Iswaran at EU-Singapore Digital Partnership Outreach Event

Opening Remarks by Minister S Iswaran at EU-Singapore Digital Partnership Outreach Event

Her Excellency Iwona Piórko, EU Ambassador to Singapore,


His Excellency Priit Turk, Estonian Ambassador to Singapore,


Ms Jenny Egermark, Chargé d’affaires, Embassy of Sweden,



Distinguished Guests,


1. Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. Allow me to start by thanking the Estonian and Swedish Embassies, and the EU Delegation to Singapore, for organising today’s event to discuss the implementation of the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership.


2. I am glad to have launched the Digital Partnership Framework with the EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton in Brussels at the start of this year.


3. This is an ambitious and comprehensive overarching framework for all areas of bilateral digital cooperation between the EU and Singapore.


a. The Digital Partnership builds on the longstanding relationship and strong economic connectivity that Singapore has with the EU.  This is underpinned by the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2019 and continues to facilitate growing trade flows between the EU and Singapore.


b. Building on this foundation, the Digital Partnership is the next major step in deepening the EU-Singapore strategic relationship, at a time of global uncertainty and change.  It also serves as a strategic pathfinder for region-to-region digital connectivity.


4. With its recent signing, it is timely for us to come together to discuss ways to jointly implement the Digital Partnership.  We need all key stakeholders to come together and make the most of this watershed opportunity, so as to deliver tangible benefits and meaningful outcomes for our companies and people.


5. Our Digital Partnership is designed to serve this objective in a few ways:


a. Firstly, it spans all areas of the digital economy. This includes core areas such as digital trade facilitation, trusted data flows, and protection for consumers and businesses. It also includes emerging areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital identity.


b. The Digital Partnership also provides a diverse and flexible toolkit for collaboration. This includes exchanges of best practices, pilot projects, and legally binding agreements. This flexibility allows us to adopt the most suitable modality depending on the issue at hand, as the digital domain is evolving rapidly with a wide range of issues. A dynamic process will enable us to adapt to different context and requirements.


c. Finally, it promotes more inclusive participation in the digital economy by enabling our people and businesses, large and small, to access and benefit from digital opportunities.  This includes cooperation on digital upskilling for workers, and the digital transformation of businesses and public services. The focus on the digitalisation of small and medium-sized (SMEs) is key to us, as larger enterprises often already have the resources to navigate the space and the pathways to digitalisation.


6. As a first deliverable of the Digital Partnership, Singapore and the EU have established a set of Digital Trade Principles, which I signed with Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. These Principles mark the first step toward a bilateral digital trade agreement between the EU and Singapore.


a. A digital trade agreement would give our citizens and businesses the clarity and legal certainty they need to transact confidently in the digital economy, and further enhance digital connectivity between both sides.


b. It would also send a very strong signal of the EU and Singapore’s thought leadership in shaping standards and global rules on digital trade, as we transact across digital boundaries.


c. We look forward to launching negotiations on a digital trade agreement with the EU soon, hopefully during Sweden’s Presidency of the EU Council.


7. As we focus on implementing the Digital Partnership, the next milestone would be the launch of concrete projects.


a. The EU and Singapore are in the process of identifying possible projects, such as proof-of-concept trials for cross-border transactions, as well as exchanges and partnerships on AI governance frameworks and standards.


b. The private sector also has an important role to play in this aspect; we welcome all companies to curate the agenda by contributing use cases and ideas that can be developed under the Digital Partnership.


8. Companies in the EU and in Singapore have already embarked on joint digital projects.  A positive example of this is the collaboration between SQREEM, a Singapore-based AI analytics company, and the Netherlands’ SemLab B.V., an AI software company.


a. Both companies have worked together to develop a tracker that can predict the impact of an infectious disease outbreak on a scalable level, by leveraging AI engines to collect and process data. It was trialled in the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic.


b. The Digital Partnership can facilitate more B2B digital partnerships to develop innovative solutions like these, that can be piloted and scaled up for broader application between our countries and regions. These pilots and projects can also help bring to the fore any regulatory barriers impeding productive efforts in the innovative digital space.


9. Today’s event is an excellent opportunity for us to share our ideas and discuss potential projects, tapping on the wealth of experience and diversity of perspectives gathered in this room.


a. I look forward to a fruitful discussion on how the EU and Singapore can collaborate to support greater digital trade and connectivity between our markets.


10. The importance of this discussion is not just what occurs in this room, but what we are able to take away from it, to inform the substantive discussions between the EU and Singapore. Your ideas and suggestions will be most valuable.


11. Finally, I would like to thank Sweden, Estonia, as well as the EU Delegation to Singapore for your strong and steadfast support for our economic cooperation, especially on the digital trade front.


12. Thank you.

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