Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing announced on Tuesday (Jan 21) that negotiations on the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) have reached a substantial conclusion - meaning most of the points have been settled.
Mr Chan said the wording of the agreement would be refined, adding that the three countries were targeting for a formal signing in time for the next Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting, which is expected to be in April this year.
He was speaking to reporters during a press conference in Singapore, together with New Zealand's Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker and Chile's Vice Minister for Trade Rodrigo Yanez.
Negotiations on DEPA began in May last year and was spearheaded by the three agencies - the Ministry for Trade and Industry (MTI), the Ministry for Communications and Information (MCI) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Mr Chan said DEPA represents a "new form of economic engagement in the digital era", noting that current trade rules and policies do not fully address the issues posed by the growth in digital trade.
The progress made so far represented the "tremendous political will" and close collaboration between the three countries, he added.
Such an agreement is needed because the digital transformation of the economy is “fundamentally changing the landscape of global trade”, said Mr Yanez.
“It’s not only relevant for the big players in Silicon Valley, but also for SMEs (small- and medium-size enterprises) and developing economies like Chile,” he said.
Mr Parker noted that DEPA was a “living agreement” that can change as circumstances change.
“The challenge for us now is to breath life into it,” he said.
In a joint statement signed on Tuesday, the three ministers said DEPA would complement other ongoing efforts such as the World Trade Organisation’s negotiations on a joint statement for e-commerce as well as digital economy work streams within APEC and other international forums.
“We also welcome other like-minded partners to participate in the DEPA,” they said.