UK begins Singapore digital trade talks – City A.M.

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The UK will today start trade talks for a digital trade agreement that could remove barriers to trade and enable UK exporters to expand into high-tech markets around the world.

International trade secretary Liz Truss is due to begin virtual negotiations with Singapore today for a Digital Economy Agreement (DEA).

The UK is the second largest services exporter in the world, with remotely delivered services exports worth £207bn in 2019.

In 2019, the UK delivered £3.2bn of digitally delivered services to Singapore.

But there is significant cross-border red tape standing in the way of digital trade. The aim of the DEA is to make it easier for companies to trade through the use of digital technology.

It is also part of the government’s wider plan to establish the UK as a global leader in industries like fintech and cybersecurity.

Negotiations will focus on opening digital markets for exporters; ensuring cross-border data sharing; promoting digital trading systems like e-signatures and e-contracts that will streamline the export process; protecting consumer rights and IPs; and cybersecurity.

“The UK will be the first European country to ever negotiate a Digital Economy Agreement, which shows what we can do as a sovereign trading nation,” said international trade secretary Liz Truss. 

“Our ambition is to make the UK a global hub for services and digital trade, by striking a series of advanced, high-standards agreements with leading nations across the world that drive productivity, jobs, and growth across the UK,” Truss added.

Miles Celic, chief executive officer at TheCityUK, underlined the need for new trade agreements that enable the flow of data across borders, and said that digital restrictions are one of the fastest-growing barriers to trade.

“Over 50% of trade in services is facilitated by digital exchange, but restrictions on digital trade doubled in the decade leading up to 2019,” Celic said.

“The UK should strive to set clear ground rules for digital trade and build an open and robust framework for future digital trade and technological cooperation. Such a framework can then become a template for other key markets, aiding the free flow of data and preventing unnecessary market fragmentation,” he added.

It comes a week after foreign secretary Dominic Raab landed in Vietnam to begin trade talks for a free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region.

The subject of Raab’s trade talks – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – would grant the UK access to some of the biggest economies in the world – including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore, too.