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Australia and Singapore conclude negotiations on landmark Digital Economy Agreement

Trade and investment

Media release: Australia and Singapore enhance digital trade ties

On 23 March, Australia and Singapore completed negotiations for the landmark Digital Economy Agreement to harness digital transformation and technology to expand trade and economic ties in our region. Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Lee Hsien Loong announced via joint videoconference the conclusion of negotiations. Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham and Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S. Iswaran also signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) on government cooperation in data innovation and artificial intelligence. At a time of global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the conclusion of the Agreement demonstrates the conviction of Australia and Singapore that we will continue to get on with the business of government, and that we recognise digital technology will remain central to business continuity in connecting with customers and staff globally.

The agreement features enhanced digital trade rules that are the most ambitious Australia and Singapore have ever agreed, setting new rules to prevent unnecessary restrictions on the transfer and location of data, improved protections for source code, and new commitments on compatible e-invoicing and e-payment frameworks. Importantly, the agreement will also feature rules for enhanced business and consumer trust in digital trade and cooperation in creating a safe online environment, protecting personal information and consumer rights. The Digital Economy Agreement is further supported by MoUs on e-invoicing, e-certification for agricultural exports and imports, trade facilitation through paperless customs procedures, personal data protection and digital identity.

Singapore is Australia’s largest trade and investment partner in ASEAN and one of the few countries with which Australia has a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). The digital economy will be an important pillar of the CSP and, through developing digital trade rules and standards that build trust and confidence, Australia and Singapore are setting ambitious benchmarks for others in the region. The Digital Economy Agreement is an important aspect of Australia’s collaborative work with Singapore in this area, as demonstrated in the ongoing WTO e-commerce negotiations, where Australia and Singapore hold leadership positions, and regional fora such as APEC.

On 21 March 2020, Australia and Singapore extended and expanded our 2017 bilateral MoU on Cyber Security Cooperation for a further five years. The MoU will support the two countries to manage cyber threats and harness opportunities for digital trade. The MoU reflects the increased geopolitical importance of cyber security and technology by enhancing our bilateral information exchanges on critical technology, cybersecurity threats, best practice and training, and cyber resilience. Cyber security is one of the central pillars of Australia's International Cyber Engagement Strategy.

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