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UK to recognise lawtech through Singapore trade deal

The agreement will establish a dialogue on the use of technology to deliver legal services, and sharing knowledge and suppliers of lawtech to explore business opportunities in the other’s markets.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has announced the UK and Singapore have reached agreement in principle on a Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) that includes provisions which recognise lawtech as an important growth sector on the global stage.

The DEA will reportedly be the first trade agreement in the world to include specific commitments on lawtech. The UK and Singapore will establish a dialogue on the use of technology to deliver legal services, share knowledge and encourage suppliers of lawtech to explore business opportunities in the other’s markets.

Both countries will work together on emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence, and they will share best practice, promote collaboration on research and development, and seek opportunities for investment.

Additionally, the agreement will reportedly ensure that UK businesses have open access to Singapore’s digital economy to “invest and operate freely, and in fair competition”. 

This includes a commitment not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions so that UK exporters can continue to sell electronic content to Singapore without facing tariffs.

Meanwhile, both countries said they will commit to banning “unjustified restrictions” on the cross-border flow of data. The DIT said this will lead to a modern trade in services so that financial services, agricultural goods, manufactured goods, legal advice and architecture can continue to grow.

Both countries will also reportedly make specific commitments to promote the participation of women and SMEs in the digital economy.

Commenting on the DEA, Stephanie Boyce, Law Society of England and Wales president, said: “We welcome recognition of lawtech in the UK-Singapore DEA – a world first for these types of agreements – and we hope it is a much-copied precedent in future deals.

“Technological development is changing the way in which legal services are delivered with profound implications for the international practice of law and the development of policies for international trade in services.”

She added: “We hope this will enable members of both the UK and Singapore legal professions to explore the opportunities in each other’s markets.”

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