DEPA is Singapore`s first digital economy agreement. The electronic signature highlights the possibilities of digital connectivity to enable business continuity during the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic. Negotiators from Chile, New Zealand and Singapore had to look at how to properly regulate digital commerce while ensuring that new technologies could continue to thrive. At first, the purely digital agreement remains relatively reluctant to many provisions, with commitments for future work and consultations as part of the evolution of the framework. However, trade rules are struggling to keep pace with the very rapid evolution of these new business methods. In recent years, New Zealand and several other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have attempted to adopt certain rules focused primarily on e-commerce through the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (PPAC) agreement and a handful of previous trade agreements. However, last week`s signing of a new agreement (using virtual means), the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), helps lay the groundwork for a more “digital” trade policy in the future. And as if we were to remember, COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated the importance of improving digital capabilities and connectivity for all types of businesses, both within and across borders. The CPTPP was the first agreement to attempt to define a comprehensive set of rules for regional digital trade. The WTO e-commerce negotiations are also trying to define a regulatory framework for digital trade at the international level.
Negotiations with Singapore and Chile aim to see what could be possible through a “scouting agreement” in this area and to try to define the agenda of disciplines and commitments in digital trade. SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, is launching a partnership call for new private sector partners to co-invest in Singapore-based startups as part of the Startup SG Equity program. For New Zealand exporters, the “tyranny of distance” was a pervasive challenge. The digital economy, on the other hand, offers the world`s shrinking potential, with instant access to the global customer and lower cost – whether you`re in powdered milk, smart medical devices or software engineering. The most important short-term business impact should be the way DEPA promotes the digital tool across Europe – for example, to ultimately use electronic billing when dealing with customers in Singapore or Chile, or to have more confidence in the rapid delivery of electronic shipments to other markets.