1st February 2023– EuroCham Singapore organised a business and networking forum amid the signing of the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership (EUSDP) by Singapore Minister for Trade Relations S. Iswaran, and Mr Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market. The forum facilitated meaningful discussions between European businesses, the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Technology and Communications, Directorate-General for Trade, and the Singapore Ministry for Trade and Industry.
“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore-EU bilateral trade has grown by 10%, and is worth €100 billion,” said Mr Iswaran of the strong economic partnership between the EU and Singapore. Ms Renate Nikolay, Deputy Director-General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology, also reaffirmed the EU’s strong business and investment relationship with Singapore.
According to Ms Nikolay, digital economic transformation is a “key political priority” of both the EU and Singapore. “The EUSDP therefore serves as an additional layer (to the current EU-Singapore FTA) by prioritising digital transformation of the EU and Singapore economies,” she explained.
“We want to give special attention to SMEs as we need the backbone of our economies to go digital,” explained Ms Nikolay. Subsequently, the EUSDP is largely geared towards the digital transformation of SMEs in Europe and Singapore. It encourages the adoption of e-invoicing, fintech, digital IDs and artificial intelligence, among other emergent digital strategies for growth.
Meanwhile, Mr Iswaran praised the EUSDP for its comprehensive and flexible approach to digitalisation of the EU and Singapore economies. But he cautioned that it was not yet possible to draw up a legally binding agreement for digital economic transformation. “We shouldn’t call judgment or arrive at a conclusion too quickly on fast-evolving digital issues, such as on Artificial Intelligence.”
While the EUSDP is a non-binding agreement, there are mechanisms in place to encourage concrete deliverables. The signing of the EUSDP oversaw the creation of Digital Trade Principles. They function as a set of standards for businesses and governments to adhere to. The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership Council was also set up in tandem with the signing of the EUSDP. The body is responsible for monitoring the progress of governments and businesses in delivering these expectations. The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership Council will then monitor the implementation of these principles and further adjust them to society’s changing needs.
“This will allow us to work together on common standards and governance issues around digital transformation,” explained Ms Nikolay.“We want to make sure that nobody gets left behind in the transformation to a digital economy. That’s why we need to build digital skills for everybody,” added Ms Nikolay. She affirmed the commitment of Singapore and the EU to digital upskilling of its peoples amid economic digitalisation.
Overall, EuroCham Singapore was pleased to welcome the EUSDP as the first step towards a binding digital trade agreement between Singapore and the EU in the foreseeable future.