Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 1/2021)
Sir, this Bill is a step forward in Singapore’s progress towards digitalisation.
This Bill will adopt, with modifications, the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records. This allows the recognition of electronic records of trade documents at international ports and supports our digitalisation efforts.
I have 3 clarifications on the Bill and on Singapore’s efforts to move towards electronisation.
Low uptake rate of Convention
My first point is on the effectiveness of national digitalisation in international trade with other countries at varying stages of digitalisation.
Any single transaction in international trade is likely to involve multiple parties in various jurisdictions. It will be important for all parties involved to be certain that electronic documents will be legally valid and enforceable in jurisdictions where the documents may need to be enforced.
The reality is that the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records has only been adopted by Bahrain.
While Singapore’s adoption of the Model Law will make Singapore one of the first mover countries, the current low rate of uptake may mean that electronic trade documents recognised in Singapore may not similarly be recognised abroad.
Are we working with other countries to provide assurances that electronic trade documents will similarly receive recognition abroad?
Electronic signatures for deeds
My second point is on electronically signed deeds. During the Circuit Breaker period, electronic execution of contracts became much more common practice.
However, deeds remain one category of documents where it is unclear if electronic signatures may be accepted. Lawyers generally advise against signing deeds using electronic signatures because of the risk that deeds governed by Singapore law or signed in Singapore may not be enforceable if signed using electronic signatures.
Can Minister clarify if deeds signed using electronic signatures, which comply with all other formalities required for deeds, are enforceable?
Scope of exclusions
Lastly, the explanatory statement to the Bill makes clear that the adoption of the Model Law and the inclusion of trade documents under the Electronic Transactions Act is part of a wider initiative by the Government to support the electronisation of documents and transactions.
As part of IMDA’s consultations in 2019, IMDA proposed removing the exclusion of Lasting Power of Attorneys. In other words, it was proposed that electronic Lasting Power of Attorneys should be allowed.
The Bill explains that these other transactions, such as LPAs, will be deleted when the legislative and administrative frameworks supporting electronisation are ready to be implemented.
I understand that an Office of the Public Guardian Online Electronic System is in the works to allow LPAs to be registered electronically.
Can Minister share how it is working with MSF to ensure that the needs of the elderly are taken into account when rolling out the Electronic System? We need to consider that they might not be familiar or comfortable with such a system.
While LPAs are of course not only for the elderly, they are a significant population that will make use of this instrument. We should ensure that any Electronic System caters to their needs.
Sir, notwithstanding my clarifications I stand in support of the Bill.
With the speech here.