Digital Economy Partnership Agreement

Recently Singapore, New Zealand and Chile signed an agreement on how they will run their trading relationships in the electronic age: the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA). It spells out how the parties will carry on business electronically, including the basic legal framework (UNCITRAL Model Law on E-Commerce, Electronic Communication Convention (and parties ‘shall endeavour’ to adopt the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records), operation of a Single Window for customs and transit documents, and many other elements of trade in the modern era.

The obligations are set out in the context of the WTO, including its Trade Facilitation Agreement that deals with a lot of e-communications.

There are rules on digital identity, the use of encryption (generally encouraged, but with a national security/law enforcement proviso), artificial intelligence and cooperation on fin tech developments, among other things.

Canada is now considering joining this agreement and would like to hear views of those interested. Here is the text of the DEPA. The background document is easier and faster to read than the agreement’s 63 pages.

The basic message from the government is this:

…past free trade agreements are not advanced enough to eliminate or reduce the barriers faced by businesses operating in the digital economy. The DEPA is a new type of standalone trade agreement that focuses exclusively on facilitating digital trade.

Feel free to tell the government what you think. Also feel free to tell Slaw what you think. Is this more of a declaration of good intentions among friendly countries, or will it change practices and economic relations among the parties? Is it a model for expanded agreements, given that Canada and the other parties are already parties to the TPP (“Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Transpacific Partnership“)?

Are there particularly good ideas in the text, or ideas that you think will be problematic?

Inquiring minds (and the government of Canada) want to know.


  1. The word “inclusive” is used four times in the DEPA: twice in reference to inclusive economic growth; inclusive trade; and inclusive participation. There is neither a definition of the word on its own nor in its descriptive use. Should there be definitions included?