Singapore Concludes Negotiations for Digital Economy Agreement with Australia

Apr 2020

Singapore and Australia have concluded negotiations for a Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement (DEA). The DEA will create a framework for deeper cooperation in the digital economy between both countries to shape international rules, establish interoperability between digital systems and address frontier issues from emerging technologies. As part of efforts to operationalize the modules stipulated in the DEA, Singapore and Australia have also signed seven Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).

This is Singapore’s second DEA, after signing the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement with Chile and New Zealand earlier this year. Through these DEAs, Singapore seeks to facilitate end-to-end digital trade, enable trusted cross-border data flows, including those which are generated or held by financial institutions, and build trust in digital systems. The DEA with Australia will facilitate seamless data flows and prohibit data localization except for specific purposes such as regulatory access. It will also cover other areas like E-payments, Source Code Protection and SME cooperation. Some key features of this DEA are the following:

  • Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) will develop three key aspects of Artificial Intelligence, namely: a) AI Development & Deployment; b) Workforce & Talent; and c) Governance & Ethics.
  • IMDA and DISER will also promote cross-border data innovation and demonstrate the benefits of trusted cross-border data flows.
  • Singapore’s SNDGO and Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will work towards mutually recognizing the two country’s digital identity regimes.
  • Singapore’s IMDA and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will facilitate exchanges and information-sharing in relation to the electronic transmission of business documents, including E-invoicing. IMDA and ATO will jointly promote e-invoicing standards.
  • Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner will jointly promote the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) System to improve awareness and participation, as well as encourage industries under the MOU to adopt the CBPR System.
  • Singapore Food Agency and Singapore National Parks Board will collaborate with the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on a pilot program to establish the exchange of E-Certs for agricultural products (including commodities, meat and meat products, plant and plant products, dairy products and seafood products. It will also include other products such as live animals and inedible products like animal feed, wool, skins and hides) imported and exported between Singapore and Australia.

Singapore and Australia enjoy strong economic ties. Singapore was Australia’s fifth-largest trade partner in 2019, with bilateral trade reaching SGD 23.9 billion. Singapore is Australia’s sixth-largest investor, with about SGD 78 billion worth of investments recorded in Australia to date.

The newly concluded DEA will complement Singapore’s efforts to develop multilateral rules to create an enabling environment for e-commerce as co-convener of the World Trade Organization Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce. This is an inter-agency effort led by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

(Sources: Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore; Monetary Authority of Singapore)

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