eOASIS is Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP's legal information website for clients, containing business and legal information prepared from a practitioner's viewpoint. It has four different modules, updated regularly, and materials range from commentaries on the latest legal developments to key legal and business information.
UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Effective From 1 January 2021: Ensuring Trade Continuity Post-Brexit
On 1 January 2021, the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement ("UKSFTA") took effect via provisional application, enabling the United Kingdom ("UK") and Singapore to apply treaty commitments under the UKSFTA on a provisional basis until it is ratified by both countries and enters into force. The UKSFTA aims to ensure trade continuity between Singapore and UK following the Brexit Transition period which expired on 31 December 2020, which had meant that the existing EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement ("EUSFTA") stopped applying to UK-Singapore trade. The UKSFTA allows companies to continue enjoying the same benefits under the EUSFTA when trading between Singapore and UK. This was announced in the Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore's ("MTI") press release dated 31 December 2020.
Based on the Joint Ministerial Statement by Singapore and UK, UK is amongst Singapore's top three European trading partners and is its top investment destination in Europe. On the other hand, Singapore is UK's largest trade and investment partner from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ("ASEAN"). The UKSFTA covers more than S$30.5 billion (approximately £17 billion) of bilateral trade in goods and services. Given the existing trade volume and synergies between the two countries, we encourage you to review the UKSFTA closely to continue to take advantage of benefits now provided under the UKSFTA that were provided under the EUSFTA, and new benefits that the UKSFTA offers.
This Update hence highlights the key benefits under the UKSFTA, which include, amongst others, elimination of tariff for goods trade, liberal and flexible rules of origin ("ROO"), EU & ASEAN cumulation, reduction of technical and non-tariff barriers, enhanced market access to the services sector, more opportunities in government procurement, and enhanced intellectual property rights.
Rajah & Tann Asia Regional Competition Report 2020
2020 has been an interesting year to say the least, with the COVID-19 outbreak changing the way we live, learn, work and play. One notable result has been the hastening of the shift towards e-commerce and platforms, a trend that many of the competition regulators in the region have picked up on and responded to, either by conducting market studies, issuing guidelines or conducting investigations in this area. Competition enforcement and activity by the competition regulators in the region also remained high in the other traditional areas, such as merger review, cartel enforcement and investigations.
Many of your businesses would be impacted by these competition developments, and it is critical for businesses to keep abreast of these legislative and enforcement updates. Hence, we thought that a wrap of the Year in a 2020 Report touching on the countries that we have market leading presence in, i.e. across Southeast Asia, would lend a personal touch to better understanding the climate in each of the countries. We hope that our 2020 Report here is helpful to you, and we would be happy to discuss any of these updates in greater detail with you.
Proposed Changes to Electronic Transactions Act to Allow Digitalisation of Trade Documents and Other Key Items
On 4 January 2021, the Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Bill 2021 ("Amendment Bill") had its first reading in Parliament. The Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Electronic Transactions Act to adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records. This would allow the use of digital documentation (such as bills of lading) with international ports and reduce the reliance on hard copy trade documents.
The Amendment Bill is part of a wider and ongoing initiative by the Government to review and support the digitalisation of various types of instruments or transactions. In this Update, we take a look at the key provisions introduced in the Amendment Bill, as well as the changes which may be subsequently implemented following further framework enhancements.
Singapore High Court Issues Significant Judgment on Freezing Injunctions in Cross-Border Insolvency and Asset Recovery Claim
In Allenger, Shiona (Trustee-in-bankruptcy of the Estate of Pelletier, Richard Paul Joseph) v Pelletier, Olga and another  SGHC 279, Rajah and Tann Singapore's Fraud, Asset Recovery and Investigations team led by partners Danny Ong and Yam Wern-Jhien, assisted by Bethel Chan and Chen Lixin, prevailed in a significant decision examining principles governing the grant of freezing injunctions against foreign defendants in the context of a cross-border insolvency and asset recovery claim.
The team successfully argued that the Singapore High Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate claims based on foreign avoidance laws, and that the foreign defendants had submitted to the Singapore court's jurisdiction by failing to promptly raise a jurisdictional challenge and taking various steps in the proceedings that were inconsistent with an intention to challenge the Singapore court's jurisdiction.
COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act: Re-Align Framework Available from 15 January 2021 and Other Additional Reliefs for Built Environment Sector
The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act ("Act") has introduced a series of legal reliefs and mechanisms for businesses and individuals to aid them in managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Update highlights the key features of the latest temporary reliefs:
- The Re-Align Framework, which facilitates the renegotiation of specified contracts for eligible businesses which are significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to be available from 15 January 2021 to 26 February 2021;
- Certain additional reliefs for the Built Environment sector have come into operation on 30 November 2020. These include a universal extension of time to the completion date for eligible construction contracts under Part 8A of the Act, and co-sharing of qualifying costs arising from COVID-19 related project delays for eligible construction contracts under Part 8B of the Act; and
- The regulations relating to the property tax rebate have been amended to take into account the Rental Relief Framework via the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Transfer of Benefit of Property Tax Remission) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which was published on 18 December 2020.