MAS: Digital, data connectivity key to cross-border trade

Cross-border trade could benefit from deepening digital and data connectivity, said Singapore's central bank chief yesterday.

Digital connectivity and keeping supply chains open will be cornerstones in international cooperation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, said Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon.

International trade transactions involve a large number and variety of parties, and the process is "highly fragmented, paper-based, slow and cumbersome", he noted.

"Harmonising and digitising trade documents, and putting them through a seamless digital platform will help to make trade more efficient and secure."

Speaking at the Caixin Summer Summit 2020 via videoconference, Mr Menon highlighted that cross-border data connectivity is a particularly important dimension of digital connectivity, which needs to be deepened across countries to expand opportunities for global trade.

Noting that Covid-19 has shown that the ability to leverage the cloud to store and access data is critical for business continuity and cyber security amid travel restrictions and office closures, he said: "We need to put in place agreements to enable cross-border data flows in a secure and seamless manner, so that digital transactions can be consummated efficiently.

"Digital connectivity and trusted data corridors are to the digital economy what free trade agreements were to the traditional economy."

He pointed out that Singapore has signed digital economy agreements with countries such as Australia, Chile and New Zealand, and these provide clarity and certainty to firms moving data across jurisdictions, supporting business operations and risk management.

In his speech, Mr Menon also highlighted the importance of keeping supply chains open, noting that greater diversification of supplies and building redundancies in the global value chains are more effective ways to build resilience in a post-Covid-19 world, instead of countries retreating behind their respective borders.

"If every country were to try to grab what it could, we will all end up with less," he said, urging countries to coordinate actions to minimise supply chain disruptions.

Economies and societies are deeply intertwined, Mr Menon said. "The way forward should be one of even closer cooperation and deeper integration."

The summit, held yesterday and today at the China World Summit Wing Hotel in Beijing, is organised by Chinese media group Caixin.