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Singapore and Australia ink digital-economy pact, renew cybersecurity tie-up

SINGAPORE and Australia on Monday finalised an agreement which creates an over-arching framework for deeper cooperation in the digital economy between the two countries.

This will shape international rules, establish interoperability between digital systems and address frontier issues in emerging technologies, the Singapore government said in a press statement on Monday.

The agreement will facilitate data flow and prohibit data localisation except for specific purposes such as regulatory access.

It also covers other areas such as electronic payments, source-code protection and SME (small and medium enterprise) cooperation.

According to the statement, this complements Singapore's efforts to develop multilateral rules to "create an enabling environment for e-commerce", as co-convener of the World Trade Organization Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce.

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The prime ministers of Singapore and Australia concluded the negotiations for the agreement during a video conference on Monday.

To help operationalise the modules stipulated in the digital-economy agreement, both countries also signed seven memoranda of understanding (MOU) to identify pilot projects for collaboration in several areas.

These areas include artificial intelligence, data innovation, digital identities, electronic invoicing and personal data protection.

For example, under the digital identities MOU, agencies from Singapore and Australia will study the feasibility of potential pilot projects such as opening bank accounts and applying for visas using digital IDs. This will reduce the time taken for processing applications and verifying one’s identity, and facilitate trade between Singapore and Australia.

Separately, on Monday, both nations also renewed a 2017 MOU on cybersecurity cooperation, according to a statement by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, which is managed by the Ministry of Communications and Information.

The renewed MOU expands Singapore and Australia's cooperation and information sharing, the agency said.

It will promote cooperation in areas including joint cybersecurity exercises, training to develop awareness and skills and regional confidence-building measures.

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