New Zealand has finally signed its first trade agreement focusing on issues solely relating to the digital economy following months of negotiations with partner countries Singapore and Chile.
Negotiations for the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) were largely concluded in January. Since then, the agreement has been legally verified and prepared for the Parliamentary Treaty Examination process.
According to Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker, the signing of the agreement, which took place during an online ceremony using e-signatures, was timely, given COVID-19’s impact on how international trade is conducted.
“Responding to COVID-19 has underlined the importance of digital tools, and digital trade, to ensure New Zealand can continue to prosper and recover quickly from the global pandemic,” Parker said. “This was another first for New Zealand and was an appropriate symbol of what we are agreeing today.
“Digital technologies can help small and medium sized enterprises overcome the challenges of scale and distance and support greater participation by women, Māori and rural communities, to help spread the benefits of trade widely – a key aim of our Trade for All policy,” he added.
The agreement covers business and trade facilitation measures, such as setting up faster customs procedures and supporting e-payments, and addresses issues of consumer trust.
Included in the text of the agreement are measures relating to electronic invoicing, express shipments, the treatment of digital products, and IT products that use cryptography and involve the protection of personal information, along with cyber security cooperation, online safety, internet access and more.
The government said the agreement also promotes online consumer protection and addresses emerging trends and technologies, such as financial technology and digital identities.
Additionally, the DEPA, which is also open to other World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries to join, is designed to promote ‘digital inclusion’, extending the benefits of the digital economy to all people and businesses.
“We’ve moved quickly since launching negotiations in May 2019 to bring this agreement to conclusion because we recognise international trade rules have not kept up with the unprecedented growth of digital trade. We believe small countries – not just large ones – should help shape the new rules,” Parker said.