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Chile; New Zealand; Singapore: Digital Trade Agreement Signed

(June 17, 2020) On June 12, 2020, the governments of Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore signed the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) in an online ceremony, with e-signature tools utilized.

Negotiations for the agreement were launched in May 2019 when the trade ministers of the three countries met and “discussed ways to maximize the contributions that digitalization can provide to [their] economies and how to take advantage of the opportunities offered by trade in the digital era.” The DEPA was intended to “deepen and strengthen cooperation in digital areas, establish new international approaches for digital trade issues, and explore new frontiers  in the digital economy, such as digital identities, e-payments, cross-border data flows and artificial intelligence.”

New Zealand’s trade minister, David Parker, stated at that time that “the CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership] already has modern e-commerce rules, which underlines the importance of that agreement, but as digital trade continues to grow and change, new barriers arise and new international approaches are required,” and that “[t]hese talks are an opportunity for New Zealand to help shape the international rules in this area to ensure they make it easier for our businesses and consumers to take advantage of digital trade opportunities, while protecting public and private interests.”

The three ministers announced in January 2020 that the DEPA negotiations had substantially concluded.

According to the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry, the final agreement “is a first of its kind agreement that establishes new approaches and collaborations in digital trade issues, promotes interoperability between different regimes and addresses the new issues brought about by digitalisation.” It is divided into 12 “modules”:

  • Business and Trade Facilitation
  • Treatment of Digital Products and Related Issues
  • Data Issues
  • Wider Trust Environment
  • Business and Consumer Trust
  • Digital Identities
  • Emerging Trends and Technologies
  • Innovation and the Digital Economy
  • Small and Medium Enterprises Cooperation
  • Digital Inclusion
  • Transparency
  • Dispute Settlement

The agreement will enter into force when at least two of the parties have completed the domestic legal processes required for bringing DEPA into force. The DEPA is an “open plurilateral” agreement, meaning it is “open to other WTO members who can meet its high quality standards.”