Australia’s ambassador to the United States Arthur Sinodinos has revealed a dialogue has begun with the Biden Administration aimed at securing a digital economy trade agreement along the same lines as the deal struck with Singapore last December.
The COVID-inspired acceleration of digitalisation efforts among corporates and governments across the world has created “a lot of interest in how we take that further,” Mr Sinodinos says.
Such a trade deal would cover issues such as standardised digital payment rules, data localisation and data privacy, with the aim of breaking down some of the barriers to trade, particularly aimed at opening opportunities for small and medium enterprises.
While using the agreement with Singapore as a kind of prototype or template, Mr Sinodinos said Australia’s preference was for a regional approach bringing in partners like Japan, South Korean, Singapore and others.
A key aim would be to set agreed rules and standards for trade in the digital economy, a recognition of geostrategic competition as it overlaps with global trade issues.
Speaking to InnovationAus through the Commercial Disco podcast, Mr Sinodinos said he hoped the focus on SMEs would be attractive to a US administration that has been focused on a worker-led recovery and SMEs being such a big employer, both here and in the US.
“We are talking to the administration about a digital trade agreement which can be modelled on the one we’ve got with Singapore,” the Ambassador said. “We prefer a regional model, so that the US, Australia, Singapore, Japan and others can set the rules and standards in the region.”
“That’s something that’s been getting a lot of discussion here in Washington among the people we work with,” he said.
“We particularly put a focus on SMEs because they employ a lot of people, and we think that would appeal to the US when it talks about worker-centric trade policy.
“In some ways we think this can be low-hanging fruit, because we have prototype agreements like the Australia-Singapore agreement. And the US has its own agreements on digital in the region. And the digital economy is an area that is expanding very quickly. So it’s a good one to do.
“If payment systems for example can be standardised and recognised across borders, that’s a big help – particularly for the smaller companies.”