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Singapore and the UK substantially conclude negotiations on a digital economy trade deal

In brief

On 9 December 2021, Singapore and the UK substantially concluded negotiations on the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA). The UKSDEA covers key areas of the digital economy, such as data, artificial intelligence, fintech, digital identities and legal technology.


Singapore has stated that its digital economy agreements build on and enhance the economic connectivity established through its extensive free trade agreements.

Therefore, the UKSDEA builds upon Singapore’s existing trade agreements with the UK, which would enable businesses, especially Singapore’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to leverage upon a greater range of opportunities in the combined and growing digital markets of Singapore and the UK. The three main objectives of the UKSDEA are: (i) to advance end-to-end digital trade; (ii) to enable trusted data flows; and (iii) to facilitate a trusted and secure digital environment.

Key features of the UKSDEA include:

  • Promoting rules for development and interoperability of electronic payments (or e-payments)
  • Promoting interoperability of electronic documents such as bills of lading and invoices (i.e., paperless trading)
  • Facilitating seamless cross-border data flows, including information generated or held by institutions
  • Establishing rules against data localization requirements so that businesses may choose where their data is stored
  • Adopting laws and regulations that guard against fraudulent, misleading or deceptive conduct that causes harm to consumers engaged in online commercial activities
  • Promoting jobs for SMEs and facilitating their connection with suppliers, buyers and business partners

In addition to the UKSDEA, Singapore and the UK have signed three accompanying Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in the areas of digital trade facilitation, digital identities cooperation and cyber security cooperation.

These MoUs are part of cooperative projects that Singapore and the UK are exploring to provide a dynamic framework for bilateral cooperation on emerging issues in the digital economy. The three signed MoUs support the digital delivery of cross-border services between Singapore and the UK and aim to make digital transactions easier, safer and cheaper and so boost businesses in both countries:

  • The digital trade facilitation MoU seeks to digitalize trade documentation to reduce costs for businesses, reduce the carbon footprint and improve accessibility for SMEs to engage in cross-border trade.
  • The digital identities cooperation MoU relates to the mutual recognition of digital identities to enable businesses and consumers to navigate the digital economy with greater ease and security.
  • The cyber security cooperation MoU acknowledges the shared vision between the UK and Singapore in maintaining the economic and social benefits of an open, peaceful and secure cyberspace. This MoU will build on existing work streams and Internet of Things security to build a secure cyberspace for businesses and consumers. 

The UKSDEA will be Singapore’s third DEA, following Singapore’s Digital Economy Partnership Agreement with Chile and New Zealand and the Singapore-Australia DEA.

The full joint press release by the Singapore government regarding the UKSDEA can be accessed here

Author

Andy Leck is the managing principal of Baker McKenzie.Wong & Leow. Mr. Leck is recognised by the world’s leading industry and legal publications as a leader in his field. Asian Legal Business notes that he “always gives good, quick advice, [is] client-focused and has strong technical knowledge for his areas of practice”. Alongside his current role as managing principal, Mr. Leck has held several leadership positions in the Firm and externally as a leading IP practitioner. He currently serves on the International Trademark Association's Board of Directors and is a member of the Singapore Copyright Tribunal.

Author

Ren Jun is an associate principal of Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow. Ren Jun extensively represents local and international intellectual property-intensive clients in both contentious and non-contentious IP matters, such as anti-counterfeiting; civil and criminal litigation; commercial issues; regulatory clearance; and advertising laws. Ren Jun also advises on a wide range of issues relating to the healthcare industries. These include regulatory compliance in respect of drugs, medical devices, clinical trials, health supplements and cosmetics; product liability and recall; and anti-corruption. Ren Jun is currently a member of the Firm's Asia Pacific Healthcare ASEAN Economic Community; Product Liability and Regulatory Sub-Committees.

Author

Arwen is a local principal in the Firm's Intellectual Property and Technology (IPTech) Practice Group in Singapore. She is a member of the Law Society of Scotland, and has been admitted to practice in Scotland since 2004. Arwen worked as an intellectual property and technology lawyer in the UK and Europe before relocating to Asia in 2014 and has since worked in both Singapore and Hong Kong, advising on matters across both Asia Pacific and Europe. Arwen is recognised in Legal 500 (2020) as "commercial, pragmatic and personable" for the TMT sector.

Author

Abe is a local principal in our Singapore office. His main areas of practice include patents, trade secrets, copyright, and transactional IP for international and domestic clients. With over eleven years of legal experience as a lawyer and over ten years of technical experience as an engineer in the US and Canada, Abe is able to provide commercially oriented legal and technology-specific advice on a wide range of IP issues. Before joining our Singapore office in 2016, Abe was a lawyer in our Baker McKenzie offices in the US (where he passed the US patent bar examination and qualified as a US Registered Patent Attorney (limited recognition)) and Thailand.

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