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Australia inks digital economy pact with Singapore

Australia’s digital economy agreement with Singapore will pave the way for data transfers and other digital trade opportunities

Australia has inked a digital economy agreement with Singapore that is expected to open new digital trade opportunities for businesses and consumers in the two countries.

Through the pact, the transfer of data between Australia and Singapore for business purposes, including in the financial sector, will be allowed. Businesses will not be forced to build data storage centres, or use local computing centres, as a condition of conducting business.

This will help businesses remain competitive by gaining access to useful market intelligence, identifying growth opportunities, designing innovative goods and services, improving pricing and operating more efficiently.

Notably, Australia’s privacy act, which protects personal information collected for inclusion in a record or publication, will still apply when Australian data is transferred into another country.

With improved protections for source codes, the agreement will also benefit software firms in Australia and Singapore. These firms will not be forced to disclose or transfer their product source code as a condition for the import, distribution, sale or use of software, subject to certain exceptions.

Additionally, both countries have committed to ensuring their e-invoicing and e-payment frameworks are implemented in a way that is compatible and based on international frameworks. Other areas of cooperation include data innovation, artificial intelligence (AI), e-certification for agricultural exports and imports, trade facilitation, personal data protection and digital identity.

With regards to personal data protection, Australia and Singapore could exchange information, excluding personal data, that involves potential or ongoing investigations of organisations suspected of breaching data protection rules in their respective jurisdictions.

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The digital economy agreement was one of the outcomes of a teleconference between Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison that was held this week amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Sharing a resolve to promote an open, interoperable, resilient and secure cyber space, the two leaders also announced the renewal of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cyber security cooperation.

The deal will enhance information exchanges on cyber and critical technology priorities, best practices and training, and advance bilateral operational sharing and cooperation to strengthen cyber resilience, as well as joint regional capacity building efforts.

David Koh, chief executive of Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency, noted that Singapore and Australia both recognise the need to continue expanding efforts to address a complex cyber security landscape.

“This MOU will facilitate more opportunities for both countries to work together to contribute to a secure and resilient cyber space,” he said.

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