Singapore, New Zealand, Chile to formally discuss China's accession to digital trade agreement

SINGAPORE – Singapore, Chile and New Zealand will start formal deliberations to assess China’s request to join a digital trade pact between the three nations.

The Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), which came into force in December 2020, was a pioneering agreement that established new approaches and collaborations in digital trade issues.

It also promotes exchange of digital information and data between different hardware and software regimes and addresses new issues brought about by digitalisation.

Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said on Thursday (Aug 18) that a working group chaired by Chile and comprising government representatives from the three member nations will examine China’s application to join and discuss its ability to comply with DEPA’s standards and commitments.

The process includes China demonstrating its ability to meet DEPA obligations, including any additional changes to its domestic laws and regulations that will be required.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said: “Singapore welcomes China’s application to join DEPA and is happy to move forward with the (working group).

“DEPA aims to create a common framework for rules and standards while fostering greater cooperation in the digital economy.”

South Korea’s application is now before another working group for assessment after it expressed interest in joining DEPA in October 2021.

DEPA was initially seen as a group of small and open economies but the addition of China, the world’s second-largest economy, will change that perception dramatically and attract a wide range of potential new members.

China is a major trading partner of all the three DEPA countries, and along with Singapore and NZ is a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that came into force earlier this year.

DEPA aims to facilitate seamless end-to-end digital trade, enable trusted data flows and build trust in digital systems.

Its key features include development of safe and secure digital identities that are mutually recognised, encouraging e-invoicing and paperless trade, and promoting fintech and e-payments.

It also has modules to promote ethical artificial intelligence governance frameworks, online consumer protection, and efforts to boost cooperation between small and medium-sized enterprises of member nations.

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