UK-Singapore clinch digital trade deal

A 'ground-breaking' digital trade deal between Britain and Singapore was signed by the UK's International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan on the final leg of a three-nation trip to Asia.

Singapore skyline reflected in strait
Visiting Japan earlier, Ms Trevelyan also said she was "very hopeful" that the UK would be admitted to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) - an 11-nation, Indo-Pacific trade pact - during the course of this year.And on a visit to Jakarta, the minister said she believed the two nations had "identified a route for expanding our future trading relationship" and envisaged UK investment in Indonesia "going from strength to strength".
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Agreement a European first 

The UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) is particularly significant as it is the first by a European nation.The government said it would strengthen the UK’s £16 billion trading relationship with Singapore by ending outdated rules for goods and services exporters, making it easier for UK business to target new opportunities in Singapore and the wider region.Ms Trevelyan said: “This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.”

Forefront of global digital service delivery 

The Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT) said a third of UK exports to Singapore were already digitally delivered, including in finance, advertising and engineering.Marco Forgione, Director-General of the IOE&IT, said: “In areas like electronic documents, digital authentication and digital customs, what is being worked on really is at the leading edge of global developments.“At the Institute of Export & International Trade we are working with partners in both the UK and Singapore to implement supply chain digitalisation and simplification of customs procedures.“So many of the costs of modern trade are not tariffs, but delays and administrative burdens. The benefits that will flow from making trade easier and quicker through digitalisation will be significant.”

Promoting multilateral agendas

Julian David, Chief Executive of the digital trade body techUK, said the DEA meant that Britain was now part of the most advanced digital trade agreement to date and also that "we can lead the multilateral agenda on ecommerce going forward".He added: "As the economy becomes increasingly digital, so does trade. Crucially, the partnership with Singapore on data, fintech, digital customs, digital ID, cybersecurity, will provide tremendous opportunities for businesses to innovate and modernise the way we trade.”A potentially bigger prize could be in the wings should the UK be successful in its bid to join the CPTPP trade bloc, currently comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.On her visit to Tokyo, Mr Trevelyan said that, for the UK, the impact of joining the bloc would be "somewhere around two billion pounds, which of course is very, very substantial growth in economic activity, in jobs, in the opportunities for those working in British businesses to help expand their export markets".But, she added: "As importantly, it helps us to show in a practical way that we're very serious when we talk about the UK making that Indo-Pacific tilt." Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi confirmed that the CPTPP member states would start tariff negotiations with the UK later this year.In Jakarta, Ms Trevelyan met with her Indonesian counterpart Muhammad Lutfi who said his government expected to reach a bilateral free trade agreement with the UK “sooner than later”.Ms Trevelyan also held discussions in Indonesia with Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Ssecretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for the first meeting since the UK became the bloc's 11th Dialogue Partner, the first nation to achieve that status in 25 years.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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