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Roundtable: Navigating the crossroads of e-commerce trade

Published 11 June 2024

The Hinrich Foundation and the Singapore Business Circle (SBC) jointly hosted a roundtable on 5 June to bring together business leaders and policymakers in Singapore to explore the current state and future prospects of e-commerce.

[Text by Jia Hui Tee]

The event featured keynote remarks by Lee Chuan Teck, Executive Chairman of Enterprise Singapore, who shared his insights on the regulatory challenges and opportunities in cross-border e-commerce trade and the trends shaping international trade. It was co-moderated by Bill Foo, Chairman of SBC, and Chuin Wei Yap, the Foundation’s research director. Participants also exchanged views on how to overcome barriers and enhance participation in e-commerce in goods and services. 

Six key takeaways from the discussions: 

  1. International trade in services is increasingly delivered digitally. It is crucial to ensure that cross-border e-commerce is not impeded by tariff and non-tariff barriers as well as challenges posed by data localization and protectionism.
  2. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in e-commerce have to navigate many hurdles such as talent acquisition, high costs of operating in the digital space to stay competitive, and cross-border trade regulations that may affect their competitiveness and profitability. Their worries include the possible elimination of de minimis thresholds at which e-commerce goods can be imported free from duties and taxes.
  3. Under a more fractious geoeconomic environment, adopting plurilateral approaches amongst like-minded nations provides inroads to policymaking in supporting cross-border e-commerce.
  4. While the World Trade Organization customs moratorium on electronic transmissions that prevents WTO members from imposing customs duties on digital transmissions has been renewed at MC13 this year, consecutive renewals of the moratorium cannot be taken for granted. Countries will need to explore possible alternatives to the moratorium, such as a permanent ban on customs duties on electronic transmissions, or a plurilateral agreement among willing partners to maintain the status quo to provide greater certainty for businesses should the moratorium fall.
  5. The generic use of national security exceptions to invoke trade restrictions is increasingly a threat to international economic cooperation. Policymakers need to narrow down and define the scope of application of national security exceptions, including their applications in trade agreements.
  6. Data flow is the lifeblood of cross-border e-commerce and businesses require assurance that data can be allowed to flow freely under established legal frameworks. 

Here are some photos from the roundtable: 

Roundtable: Navigating the crossroads of e-commerce trade

Roundtable: Navigating the crossroads of e-commerce trade

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