Objective 1.1

Ease of movement of people, capital, services and data across borders

Action 1.1A

The Government will pursue high-quality digital trade liberalisation and facilitation rules through free trade agreements and participation in the WTO, OECD, APEC and G20.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Government response
Related Action/s

Encourage the development and harmonisation of high-quality digital standards with key trading partners, including through FTAs, in multilateral fora, and through regulator-to-regulator cooperation. This could include facilitating the development of international digital standards.


When negotiating trade agreements, the approach taken by Hong Kong and Australia in the recently negotiated Australia-Hong Kong FTA should serve as a model of how to lock in free cross-border data flows for the finance sector without mandatory local data storage requirements.


The Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement

To help ensure Australian businesses and consumers can continue to benefit from growing digital trade opportunities, on 6 August 2020, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, and Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, digitally signed the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA).

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APEC setting best-practice standards and regulations

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional economic forum that aims to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.

Australia is actively engaged in APEC. We lead and support initiatives that improve data and transparency, promote best-practice standards and regulation, and build capacity in the region.

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Progress to date

The Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement sets new global benchmarks for trade rules and a range of cooperation initiatives. Key outcomes included commitments on data flows, data localisation, electronic authentication, electronic signature and treatment of source code. It also established a framework for collaboration between FinTech and RegTech (regulatory technology) enterprises and industry bodies to explore business opportunities and develop standards.

The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) represented a significant step forward in agreeing up-to-date commitments on digital trade with Indonesia. Key outcomes include commitments on data flows, data localisation, treatment of source code and transparency in the regulation of digital trade.

Australia has contributed $1 million to support Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiatives on digital trade. This includes an APEC project on improving the measurement, regulation and inclusion of the digital economy, the APEC Digital Symposium, and contributing to the APEC Digital Innovation Sub-Fund (Asia Pacific).

The Digital Economy Strategy announced during the 2021-22 Federal Budget sets out how Australia will secure its future as a modern and leading digital economy and society by 2030. It builds on the Government’s existing digital and data initiatives, sets out further actions the Government is taking through the 2021-22 Budget and defines future pathways to 2030. 

  • Digital infrastructure – to connect business and households
  • Cyber security, safety and trust – to protect and build confidence
  • Skills and inclusion – to build digital capabilities for the future workforce
  • Systems and regulation – to implement smart, modern settings to drive digitalisation
  • Trade and international engagement – to open markets and set global standards to ensure Australian businesses, workers and consumers benefit from digital trade.

The Digital Economy Strategy sets out the pathways to guide future actions, set ambitious targets and will be continually renewed to realise our vision of being a leading digital economy and society by 2030. These targets include that over the next five years, Australia will increase the number of digital agreements with like-mined partners.  

Australia through its active participation in the OECD Trade Committee and working party has supported the publication of two new OECD reports, mapping commonalities in regulatory approaches to cross-border data transfers and Digital Trade Inventory: Rules, Policies and Principles. These reports contribute to ongoing debates by helping Australian policymakers better identify and respond to emerging challenges arising from digitalisation.