Singapore and European Union announce digital partnership on worker skills, AI advancement

SINGAPORE: Singapore and the European Union on Thursday (Dec 15) announced a new partnership in the digital sector, which both parties described as having “transformative potential” for the future of their economies.

In a joint statement, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the partnership, to be formally signed and launched next year, would advance cooperation on “the full range of digital issues”.

These include trade facilitation, trusted data flows and data innovation, digital trust, standards, digital skills for workers and the digital transformation of businesses and public services.

The digital partnership will also help Singapore and the EU work together on making supply chains more resilient and advancing new areas such as artificial intelligence, digital identities and 5G/6G.

As a first deliverable, a set of digital trade principles have been agreed on.

“These principles reflect our joint commitment to an open digital economy and provide a common framework to boost digital trade between us and globally,” said the two leaders.

“We aim to build on these principles to enact a set of bilateral digital trade rules.”

Forward-looking digital trade engagements between the EU and Singapore will complement and support ongoing World Trade Organization negotiations to put in place global rules on electronic commerce, they added.

“The digital partnership builds on long-standing cooperation between the EU and Singapore on trade, research and technology,” said Mr Lee and Ms von der Leyen.

“At a time of turmoil and change, we are taking another major step to deepen our strategic partnership for the benefit of our citizens, consumers and businesses.”

Speaking to Singapore media at the end of his trip, Mr Lee said there is potential to do more in EU-ASEAN relations.

The Prime Minister cited the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) signed in October as a major achievement. Under CATA, the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement, airlines of ASEAN and the EU will be able to fly any number of passenger and cargo services between both regions. 

“It will mean more air rights, more connectivity, more opportunities for businessmen, for tourists to travel, and therefore, tighter links between the two sides,” he told reporters.

On the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership, he said that with the right standards, Singapore can attract more IT-related businesses to the country, and these companies will be able to have a footprint that covers Europe. 

Besides digital economy agreements, Singapore and the EU are also working on deeper cooperation on the green economy as the EU aggressively pursues carbon reduction to get to net-zero emissions, Mr Lee said. 

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