Singapore seeks to reinforce role as digital hub, signs partnership with EU
Singapore is the European Union's largest trading partner in ASEAN.
SINGAPORE: Singapore is seeking to reinforce its role as a business centre and a digital hub globally and in the region, said Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran on Tuesday (Feb 1).
Speaking to journalists over Zoom while on a visit to Brussels and London, Mr Iswaran said: “Whether it’s data flows, whether it’s analytics for insights that can be extended or applied to the region and beyond, and so on, those sorts of activities, anchoring themselves in Singapore.
“It’s the kind of knowledge-intensive, technology-intensive but also data-intensive activity that we are seeking to build into another pillar in our economy as we move into this new digital era.”
On Tuesday, Mr Iswaran and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton signed the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership.
“These sorts of agreements enhance our data connectivity, establishing rules for how data can flow with confidence, with trust, so that parties can transact and we can become one of the nodes for such data flows, not unlike the way we have emerged as a node for capital flow and goods flows and services flows,” said Mr Iswaran.
The digital partnership is an overarching framework for all areas of bilateral digital cooperation between the European Union and Singapore, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry in a separate press release.
These include digital trade facilitation, trusted data flows, electronic payments as well as standards and conformance, the press release read.
It also covers new and emerging areas such as artificial intelligence, digital identities and 5G or 6G.
There is a “clear desire” from all parties to commence negotiations on the agreement sometime this year, said Mr Iswaran.
“The sooner, the better, but we have to of course take dressing from the cadence of the European processes as well because they do have regulatory processes that they will have to follow through on,” he added.
The EU is Singapore’s second-largest digital partner for trading services and fourth-largest for trading goods. Singapore is also the EU’s largest trading partner in ASEAN, said Mr Iswaran.
There are about 12,000 EU businesses in Singapore, he added.
“There’s been a good momentum in terms of trade,” said Mr Iswaran, adding that overall trade of goods has grown by about 10 per cent in terms of value.
“And these speak to the fact that the trade agreement combined with the needs and economic circumstances are contributing to greater flows between the EU and Singapore, and of course through Singapore and to the region.”
The partnership will benefit businesses, especially small-to-medium-size enterprises, said Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister for Transport.
“They will be able to transact cross border with greater certainty and less costs,” he noted.
If the agreement can facilitate trade documentation and data flows, the cost of moving goods across borders will go down, said Mr Iswaran.
“And when it comes to some of the other areas like the flow of data, the more we’re able to allow data to flow freely with appropriate safeguards, especially with respect to privacy and so on, the more then companies will be able to aggregate this data and analyse it and be able to come up with better services and solutions and products,” he added.
“These sorts of agreements, they first serve to assure the man in the street that when there is such flow of data, it will be done in a manner that safeguards their concerns around privacy .. based on the protocols and rules and regulations that the countries have.
“But it also means that they will benefit from better quality services and products that will arise from the ability to analyse such data.”