Singapore digital trade signed and text released: Big Tech deregulation agenda

August 10, 2020: The Australia-Singapore digital economy text was signed last week and the text is available here. Australia announced the conclusion of negotiations in March but as usual the text has only been released after signing.

The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors in record time between October 2019 and March 2020. The government claims it “breaks new ground” and goes further than the CPTPP and other agreements on deregulating cross-border data flows and preventing access to source code by government regulators.

AFTINET made a critical submission on digital trade in February 2020 that also dealt with the WTO e-commerce negotiations.

Our submission points out that the recent ACCC report on digital platforms and a Human Rights Commission report recommended more, not less, regulation of big tech companies, and that deregulatory trade rules could frustrate future regulation needed to protect privacy, prevent discrimination and curb their market domination.

These issues have been highlighted in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic when the increase in digital communication and commerce has boosted Big Tech profits and market domination.

The text is likely to be tabled in parliament after August 24. AFTINET is analysing the text and will make a submission to the inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which will take place after the text is tabled in parliament.