China says it applied to join digital free trade deal days after proposing law against cross-border data flow

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China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Monday the country has officially applied for entry into the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).

According to the ministry, commerce minister Wang Wentao submitted the application in a written letter to Damien O’Connor, minister for trade and export growth of New Zealand and DEPA depositary.

President Xi Jinping announced China’s intentions to apply earlier the same day via video address to the G20 summit in Rome. While Xi appeared on video, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, attended the meeting in Italy as the president’s special representative.

The DEPA is a new type of digitally focused trade agreement between New Zealand, Chile, and Singapore that was signed into existence in June 2020. Within the agreement, member states agree to recognize each other’s digital identity documents, work on the timely paperless exchange of customs documents, adopt interchangeable e-invoicing standards, and agree to a pro-FinTech philosophy.

Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry described DEPA as “a first

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