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NZ Minister for Trade and Export Growth welcomes Canada's interest in DEPA

Canada has announced it is interested in joining the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) alongside New Zealand, Singapore and Chile, a statement which is welcomed by New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor.

The DEPA is a world-first partnership designed to help New Zealand exporters and SMEs take advantage of opportunities from digital trade.

For example, the DEPA facilitates trade by encouraging the use of digital tools, e-invoicing and payments, and streamlined customs procedures for parcels.

The Digital SME Dialogue will also provide a platform for close collaboration between businesses, industry bodies, and others, according to a statement from the Government.

O’Connor says, “The COVID-19 experience has shown just how critical digital technologies are for our economy. Our priorities for the DEPA are key elements in helping New Zealand to 'build back better.'

"The DEPA comes at a time of considerable disruption to international trade and supply chains due to COVID-19, yet that experience has shown the value of our digital economy and digital trade."

The Agreement was concluded earlier this year, with a virtual signing ceremony taking place on 12 June 2020.

It will enter into force for New Zealand and Singapore on 7 January 2021.

Since the signing, New Zealand has been using the DEPA to help find digital solutions to the challenges our economies are facing, such as keeping supply chains open and supporting the interests of SMEs, which make up the bulk of the New Zealand economy.

O’Connor says, “The DEPA encourages further growth of digital aspects of our trading relationships, and supports the diversification of exports, which will improve our future resilience.

"I am pleased that the DEPA will enter into force for Singapore and New Zealand so early in the new year. It was designed from the start to be a ‘living agreement’, meaning that it can change over time to include new elements and to bring new members into the partnership.”

On the most recent announcement, O'Connor says, “Canada is a natural early addition to the DEPA grouping and I warmly welcome the announcement by Canada of its interest in exploring membership of the DEPA."

Consistent with multilateral rules, the DEPA is an 'open plurilateral’ agreement, meaning it is open to other WTO members to join if they meet its high quality standards.

Canada is New Zealand’s 10th largest services export destination and 14th largest overall trading partner, with two-way trade valued at over $2 billion.

Services exports drove strong trade growth and made up 40% of total exports to Canada in 2019, one of the highest ratios for any of New Zealand’s export destinations.

While COVID-19 has affected services trade with Canada, it is a promising market offering opportunities in health IT, agile technology, and agritech, O'Connor states.

There is also scope for more collaboration in research, science and technology in these areas.

The existing elements of NZ's bilateral trading relationship include shared membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), under which 99% of existing New Zealand exports are tariff free.

As members of the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG), countries continue to work together to promote progressive and inclusive approaches to trade, particularly focused on the empowerment of indigenous groups, women and small and medium enterprises as governments look to respond to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, O'Connor says.