- Electronic commerce and intellectual property rights form key elements of the bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed Tuesday between the US and Singapore, the two sides say in a joint statement.
Together with the broad FTA, the US and Singapore signed a Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce, designed to maintain a global environment for electronic commerce free from barriers to its growth, the sides say.
The statement includes several principles relating to the development of e-commerce, including:
-- the private sector should take the lead in developing electronic commerce and establishing electronic business practices
-- governments should avoid imposing unnecessary regulations and restrictions on electronic commerce
-- when governments intervene in e-commerce, they should enact measures which are transparent, nondiscriminatory and predictable.
"The statement has broken new ground in creating a framework of cooperation and identifying emerging areas of collaboration for electronic commerce," says George Yeo, Singapore's trade and industry minister, in a statement. "We are confident that the Joint Statement will accelerate electronic commerce development between both countries."
The statement also emphasises the two countries' belief that greater use of e-commerce worldwide can help to reduce economic and social disparities within and between countries and to promote cultural diversity and maintain cultural identity.
The FTA signed Tuesday by Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong and US President George Bush is the first such bilateral agreement between the US and an Asian nation, and the largest yet signed by the US apart from NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement).
It will benefit companies in both countries, according to the US-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Business Council.
"The US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is comprehensive and breaks new ground in a number of areas, including a wide range of services sectors, e-commerce, telecommunications, intellectual property protections, and many other areas which are US strong suits," the council says in a statement.
"US business stands to gain a great deal not only from this agreement, but from the high standard it sets for future trade pacts."
ASEAN officials have said they hope that the US will move towards signing an FTA with the regional group in the relatively near future.