NZ government forges digital trade agreement with Chile and Singapore

International trade rules have not kept up with the unprecedented growth of digital trade, government says

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The New Zealand Government has concluded talks on a partnership with the governments of Chile and Singapore that it says will help exporters and SMEs take advantage of opportunities from digital trade (aka e-commerce).

Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker said the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) had been put in place because international trade rules have not kept up with the unprecedented growth of digital trade.

“DEPA complements and supports the ongoing WTO-based negotiations on e-commerce, as well as work within APEC and the OECD,” he said

“Consistent with our support for multilateral rules, the DEPA is an ‘open plurilateral’ agreement, meaning it is open to other WTO members who can meet its high quality standards.”

Parker said government had ensured issues of importance to New Zealanders such as the Treaty of Waitangi, personal privacy, consumer protection, data management, transparency and openness were appropriately protected.

“Digital technologies can help small and medium sized enterprises overcome the challenges of scale and distance, support greater participation by women, Mäori and rural communities, to help spread the benefits of trade widely - a key aim of our Trade for All policy,” he said.

“Digital trade is constantly evolving. We may not know what new technologies will emerge, but we know it is valuable to have open channels of communication with close partners to discuss issues this change can bring.”

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller said the agreement will help Kiwi companies grow their digital trade significantly.

“The New Zealand economy is largely made up of small and medium businesses and being able to trade digitally opens up the global market which was previously only accessible for larger firms,” the CEO said.

“As more small Kiwi businesses understand how to access global markets this will accelerate their expansion and the growth of the economy.”

The agreement comprises a dozen separate 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 full text of the DEPA is available here. It is subject to legal verification by the three governments prior to signature.

What is digital trade?

The government’s website for DEPA says there is no single accepted definition of digital trade, but the term is often a synonym for e-commerce.

“The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports … a growing consensus that it encompasses digitally-enabled transactions of trade in goods and services that can either be digitally or physically delivered, and that involve consumers, firms, and governments.”

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