29 June 2020

Singapore has recently undertaken commitments with a variety of nations to underscore their joint efforts to stay the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. These recent undertakings are briefly set out in this article.

Digital economy partnership agreements

On 22 June 2020, Singapore and the Republic of Korea launched negotiations on a new Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement with a view to enabling greater access, connectivity, and opportunities between the countries’ peoples and businesses, as well as further promoting trade and trusted data flows. This initiative follows the signing of a Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (“DEPA”) on 12 June 2020 by representatives from Singapore, New Zealand and Chile. The signing of DEPA affirmed these countries’ commitment to deepening collaboration in the sphere of the digital economy. DEPA is the first digital economy agreement that Singapore has concluded and signed. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation globally as more and more businesses carry out activities in the digital sphere. In such an environment, agreements such as DEPA will help businesses transact and trade seamlessly.

DEPA fosters cooperation on key emerging issues in the digital economy and promotes interoperability between the systems of different countries. The Ministry of Trade and Industry noted that Singapore businesses can look forward to benefits such as improved efficiency, reduced cost and increased trust when conducting business and trading digitally with their overseas partners in these two countries.

Agreements to strengthen cooperation and connectivity

Singapore has also affirmed its intent to maintain supply chain connectivity and strengthen economic cooperation with various countries since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most recently, Singapore and France issued a Joint Ministerial Statement affirming their common intent to maintain open and connected supply chains for essential food supplies amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the Joint Ministerial Statement, Singapore and France will work together to ensure that transport and logistics links remain open to facilitate the flow of essential food and agricultural products. This includes working with relevant service providers in air and sea freight. Both countries will also facilitate business partnerships and collaborations between Singapore and French food companies, importers and distributors.

Similarly, on 29 May 2020, representatives from Singapore and Poland affirmed their commitment to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation. A Joint Ministerial Statement was issued setting out the countries’ intentions to enhance connectivity by expediting the flow of essential goods, including food and agricultural products, and ensuring that trade avenues such as air and sea freight, are open, efficient and effective.

On a larger scale, the ASEAN Economic Ministers and the Minister of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (collectively, “Ministers”) issued a statement on 29 May 2020 calling for joint efforts in mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on global and regional trade and investment, restoring economic and trade confidence, as well as pursuing and securing sustainable and long-term growth of international trade and investment.

In addition, the Ministers reaffirmed the importance of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (“ACFTA”) in boosting trade and investment and in ensuring stable and inclusive growth of the region. The statement notes that even under the current economic challenges, trade between ASEAN and China remains positive and presents significant opportunity in the economic recovery of the region. Smooth implementation of ACFTA remains vital in facilitating and promoting the free flow of goods and services, enhancing two-way investment, as well as maintaining the integrity of supply chains.

The Ministers also agreed to continue addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers, including those that impede the smooth flow of goods and services in supply chains. They further agreed to refrain from imposing unnecessary trade measures with the view to minimising adverse impact on regional supply chains, with any emergency trade measures to tackle Covid-19 being targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary, and without creating unnecessary barriers to trade.

Reference materials

The relevant materials are available on the Ministry of Trade and Industry website www.mti.gov.sg or by clicking on the titles below:

Further information

Allen & Gledhill has a Covid-19 Resource Centre on our website www.allenandgledhill.com that contains knowhow and materials on legal and regulatory aspects of the Covid-19 crisis.

In addition, we have a cross-disciplinary Covid-19 Legal Task Force consisting of Partners across various practice areas to provide rapid assistance. Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at covid19taskforce@allenandgledhill.com.