28 June 2022

The United Kingdom (UK) - Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (“UKSDEA”) has entered into force on 14 June 2022. The commencement of the UKSDEA was jointly announced by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (“MTI”), Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) on 14 June 2022.

The UKSDEA’s entry into force reflects Singapore and the UK’s strong commitment towards enabling new growth opportunities for Singapore businesses in the digital economy. Benefits to businesses include end-to-end digital trade such as safe and secure e-payments and paperless trading, as well as seamless and trusted data flows, which encourage participation in the digital economy. Consumers will enjoy greater online consumer protection, as well as safe and secure cross-border payments.

Highlights of the modules within the UKSDEA include (i) advancing end-to-end digital trade, (ii) enabling trusted data flows, and (iii) facilitating trust in digital systems and participation in the digital economy.

Singapore and the UK also signed three Memoranda of Understanding (“MOUs”) (covering Digital Trade Facilitation, Digital Identities and Cyber Security) and exchanged two side-letters (covering FinTech and Customs Cooperation).

Advancing end-to-end digital trade

Singapore and UK will promote transparent and facilitative rules, such as by encouraging open Application Programming Interfaces (“APIs”), to support the development of safe and secure cross border e-payments. Further, the countries will support digitalisation and the seamless exchange of key commercial documents by accepting electronic versions of trade administration documents, and also seek to facilitate cross-border digitalisation of supply chains.

Enabling trusted data flows

Businesses operating in Singapore and the UK will be allowed to transfer information, including information generated or held by financial institutions, more seamlessly across borders. Both countries will put in place disciplines against requirements for data and allow businesses to choose where their data is stored. Given the importance of submarine cable systems and associated facilities, Singapore and the UK will ensure access and minimise risks to these systems and facilities to promote national, regional and global telecommunications connectivity. To encourage innovation, government information that has been made publicly available will be in a machine readable and open format, with easy to use and freely available APIs.

Facilitating trust in digital systems and participation in the digital economy

To ensure companies using cryptography and software developers can trust the market they are operating in, neither country will require the transfer of, or access to, private keys and related technologies or source code as a condition of market access. Both countries will adopt or maintain laws and regulations that guard against fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive conduct, cooperate in promoting jobs and growth for small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”), and remove barriers for participation in the digital economy.

Accompanying MOUs and side-letters

The Digital Trade Facilitation MOU will facilitate the sharing of knowledge and implementation of pilot projects between the UK and Singapore on areas such as electronic trade documents and electronic invoicing. Benefits include reduced cost for businesses driving competitive pricing for consumers, a reduction in the carbon footprint or trade, and improving accessibility by SMEs to engage in cross-border trade. The sharing of best practices under the MOU will also influence the creation of secure global supply chains and interoperable digital ecosystems.

The Digital Identities Cooperation MOU promotes greater cooperation between the UK and Singapore in the field of digital identity to develop mutual recognition and interoperability between the respective digital identify regimes. The MOU lays the foundation for a roadmap towards mutual recognition of digital identities between the UK and Singapore, based on the principle of mutual interest and benefit.

The Cyber Security MOU acknowledges the shared vision between the UK and Singapore in maintaining the economic and social benefits of an open, peaceful and secure cyberspace. The MOU will build on strong existing cyber cooperation between the UK and Singapore in seeking opportunities for collaboration in areas such as the Internet of Things security, promoting cyber resilience and capacity building.

The side-letter on FinTech cooperation establishes a roadmap for HM Treasury and the Monetary Authority of Singapore to revitalise the UK-Singapore FinTech Bridge that was established in 2016.

The side-letter on customs cooperation will formalise the formation of a Working Group between Singapore Customs and HM Revenue & Customs to discuss and consider areas of mutual interest on customs and the digital economy, including, but not limited to, single window interoperability and supply chain digitisation between Singapore and the UK.

Reference materials

The press release is available from the MTI website www.mti.gov.sg.