Singapore spectacular! UK beats EU to ‘cutting edge’ trade talks –Truss eyes historic deal

Liz Truss says UK will be 'adding' to trade deals in 2021

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The International Trade Secretary is opening talks with her Singaporean counterpart to broker a Digital Economy Agreement (DEA). No other European country, nor the European Commission, has held negotiations on such a deal before.

The radical new proposals would see red tape between the two economies slashed, opening new opportunities for British businesses.

The UK already does £3.2billion worth of digital trade with the Asian nation with hopes of ramping up exports once a new agreement is signed.

Last year 70 percent of UK services exports, from financial and legal services to music streaming and e-books, were digitally delivered to Singapore.

In total the UK exported £207billion in digital services in 2019.

Mr Truss hailed the opening of talks as proof of the benefits of Brexit and she set out her ambition for Global Britain.

She said: “We are becoming more flexible, more nimble and less defensive in our approach to trade.

“Our ambition is to make the UK a global hub for services and digital trade, by striking a series of advanced, high-standards agreements with leading nations across the world that drive productivity, jobs, and growth across the UK.”

The International Trade Secretary will hold conversations with the Singaporean Minister in charge of Trade Relations Mr S. Iswaran over video due to the pandemic.

The DEA will be on top of the £17billion free trade agreement already signed between the two countries in December last year.

Ms Truss added: “A cutting-edge deal with Singapore will keep us at the forefront of the technological revolution, ensuring we lead the way in digitally delivered trade and industries like fintech and cybersecurity.

“We are already the second-largest services exporter in the world, with a huge comparative advantage in this area that we intend to capitalise on.

“The UK will be the first European country to ever negotiate a Digital Economy Agreement, which shows what we can do as a sovereign trading nation.”

The negotiations will focus on helping to promote digital customs and border procedures to minimise bureaucracy for exports, boosting cooperation on sectors such as fintech and lawtech, and securing new digital markets.

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Business leaders have welcomed the anticipated new deal.

Sally Jones, trade strategy leader at EY UK and Ireland, described the DEA as “an important opportunity for the UK to step to the forefront in developing new trade rules”.

She said: “Digital transformation can unlock human potential and accelerate new, better ways of working.

“For the UK’s service sector, it’s now impossible to distinguish between digital and non-digital trade.

“Digital is at the core of everything we do. For too long, trade deals haven’t taken into account the realities of how businesses trade today.”

Julian David, techUK CEO added: “We are delighted to see the start of the first UK digital-specific trade negotiation with Singapore, a like-minded country with whom we share longstanding business ties.

“Digital trade is the fastest-growing arm of international trade and getting the rules right will be crucial for our economic recovery.

“A UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement will put the UK firmly in the frontrunners club for digital trade policy and facilitation and techUK stands ready to support an ambitious deal.”

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