The Straits Times | 8 December 2021
Singapore, EU in talks on strengthening bilateral digital trade, forming partnership
by Kang Wan Chern
SINGAPORE - With an eye on tapping further growth, Singapore and Europe commenced talks in Brussels on Wednesday (Dec 8) to strengthen bilateral digital trade, with a longer-term goal of advancing towards a digital partnership.
In a Facebook post, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S. Iswaran said such an agreement will "facilitate cooperation in the digital economy" by lifting barriers, creating job opportunities, providing legal certainty for businesses and protecting consumers.
He is in Brussels to co-chair a trade committee meeting under the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on Nov 21, 2019.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) noted that strengthening digital economy cooperation is a priority for both sides in order to harvest the job and growth opportunities.
To maximise the benefits, the statement noted the importance of ensuring connectivity and interoperability of digital markets and policy frameworks.
Mr Iswaran and co-chair, European Commission executive vice-president and trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, also discussed ways to strengthen the post-pandemic economic recovery.
The MTI statement noted that, last year, the free trade agreement provided businesses with "predictability and certainty" and facilitated annual bilateral trade in goods and services exceeding €100 billion (S$154 billion) in value.
It is among the first few "new generation" bilateral agreements, with important provisions on intellectual property protection, investment liberalisation, public procurement, competition and sustainable development.
This is on top of the classical removal of Customs duties and non-tariff barriers for trade in goods and services.
Furthermore, the agreement establishes conditions for EU businesses to take full advantage of the opportunities created in Singapore. Likewise, it also enhances access for Singapore companies to the 27 member states in the EU.
Singapore has so far negotiated the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement with Chile and New Zealand, and the Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement, both of which were signed last year.
It has started talks on digital economy agreements with South Korea and Britain.