DEPA Modules

Find out more detail on each of the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement modules below.

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Business and Trade Facilitation

The Business and Trade Facilitation module promotes the adoption and use of technology to facilitate trade. The DEPA:

  • Promotes paperless trading by making e-versions of trade administration documents available and equivalent to paper documents in most situations. DEPA recognises that technologies are evolving and that data exchange systems may take the place of trade administration documents in the future.
  • Requires the legal frameworks that govern electronic transactions within DEPA partners to be consistent with internationally developed model frameworks.
  • Sets up faster customs procedures for express shipments, while maintaining appropriate customs control and selection.
  • Confirms that DEPA partners should not impose customs duties on electronic transmissions.
  • Supports the growth of e-payments. DEPA recognises that payment technology is evolving so promotes transparency and a level playing field. At the same time, trust and security of payment systems is important so DEPA allows regulation in special circumstances or to respond to a balance of payments crisis.

DEPA promotes the use of e-invoicing across borders in the DEPA region. With e-invoicing, businesses no longer need to generate paper-based or PDF invoices that have to be printed, posted or emailed, and buyers no longer need to manually enter these into their accounting system.

Treatment of Digital Products and Related Issues

This module affirms DEPA Parties levels of commitments relating to the Treatment of Digital Products and Related Issues.

Data Issues

Data is at the heart of digital trade and the wider digital economy.  We are only now starting to see the potential for data to support well-being in New Zealand and to drive innovation amongst businesses. Trade and production are also now heavily dependent on moving, storing and using digital information (data), increasingly across borders. The DEPA recognises this by:

  • Requiring DEPA partners to have in place legal frameworks to protect personal information. DEPA adds to other international discussions on privacy by setting out the principles that underpin strong protection frameworks including transparency, data quality and accountability.
  • Affirming DEPA partners’ levels of commitments relating to transmission of information and location of computer facilities. These rules recognise the value of information flows and the development of new technologies and services.

Wider Trust Environment

The DEPA Parties recognise that cyber security is integral to the digital economy. To this end, the DEPA includes a provision relating cyber security. This means that as we work together on new and emerging issues, we will continue to consider cyber security.

The Wider Trust Environment is also about a safe and secure online environment. While the DEPA does not have specific rules on this point, DEPA Parties will continue to consider this issue as new areas emerge.

Business and Consumer Trust

The Business and Consumer Trust contains provisions relating to:

  • unsolicited commercial electronic messages (or SPAM),
  • online consumer protection, and
  • principles on access to and use of the internet.

These provisions all aim to make it easier for businesses and consumers to take advantage of the opportunities digital trade presents.

The rules relating to Online Consumer Protection ensure consumers have the information to trade with confidence and access to appropriate redress if things go wrong. DEPA Parties will further explore the benefits of alternative dispute resolution or other mechanisms to facilitate the resolution of digital trade issues.

Digital Identities

Digital identity (e.g. national business numbers) is a new issue for trade agreements. There is no one approach to digital identity but the DEPA Parties recognise that cooperation will increase regional and global connectivity. The DEPA provisions:

  • clearly recognise that digital identities are an important component of the digital economy; and
  • enable DEPA Parties to work together on digital identity issues. Future work could include the exchange of knowledge and expertise relating to digital identity polices and regulations, technical implementation and security standards and user adoption.

Emerging Trends and Technologies

DEPA is a living agreement. As new technologies emerge, and new challenges arise, we want to ensure that DEPA is also able to evolve. DEPA provides an important vehicle for us to discuss these issues with close partners.

DEPA covers some emerging trends and technologies, but acknowledges that there is more to know before international trade rules can be developed among DEPA partners. Areas where DEPA Parties will look to deepen their cooperation relating to the digital economy are:

  • Fintech, including by involving fintech businesses.
  • Artificial intelligence, including by working together to promote the adoption of ethical and governance frameworks.
  • Government Procurement, including by considering impact of greater digitisation of procurement processes.
  • Competition policy.

Innovation and the Digital Economy

This DEPA module recognises the importance of technological innovation, creativity, and technology as a means to achieve social and economic welfare.

The module:

  • recognises the importance of a rich and accessible public domain;
  • looks to the future of data innovation and sets a framework for future work on data-sharing projects; and,
  • promotes open government data, including by providing that DEPA Parties strive towards open data when information is made available to the public.

Small and Medium Enterprises Cooperation

DEPA is a vehicle for cooperating with our partners on digital economy issues. It sets up a framework for cooperation, enabling us to test ideas and promote our businesses, particularly our SMES, with DEPA partners.

The digital economy means SMEs can connect with their target market quickly and easily. We want to make sure that SMEs have easy access to information about regulations that concern their business when operating in DEPA partners. We also want to make links between SMEs. There will be a Digital SME Dialogue held after entry into force to promote the benefits of DEPA.

Digital Inclusion

DEPA partners want to expand and facilitate digital economy opportunities, to the benefit of all people. The DEPA module on Digital Inclusion is the first of its kind.

Importantly for New Zealand, DEPA provides a platform for enhancing cultural and people-to-people links, including between Indigenous Peoples. At the same time, nothing in this new Agreement will prevent the Crown from meeting its Treaty obligations to Māori.


The DEPA Module provides exceptions that allow DEPA parties to justify actions that would otherwise violate obligations in the Agreement.  Some of the important exceptions include:

  • Treaty of Waitangi: As with all of New Zealand’s contemporary trade agreements, DEPA includes a specific provision preserving the pre-eminence of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand. This is in addition to other areas of policy flexibility preserved across the Agreement. The Treaty of Waitangi exception provides flexibility for the Government to implement domestic policies in relation to Māori, including in fulfilment of the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty, without being obliged to offer equivalent treatment to persons of other countries that are party to the Agreement. The exception is self-judging; it is for New Zealand to determine what policies it considers are necessary to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty, and New Zealand’s interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi will not be subject to dispute settlement available to parties under the Agreement.
  • Tax: The taxation exception means nothing in the Agreement applies to taxation measures.
  • Security: The security exception allows DEPA Parties to take any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests.


Access to information is especially important in digital trade when an increasing number of smaller firms are trading in more countries with more complex transactions. The DEPA Transparency module promotes openness of by ensuring laws and regulations relating to the digital economy be promptly published and made available.

Dispute Settlement

The DEPA includes a Dispute Settlement module. This will provide efficient, fair, and transparent processes for resolving disputes between governments. The procedural detail will be further discussed among DEPA Parties, including the different types of procedures for consultation, mediation and arbitration. 

Digital Economy Partnership Agreement: What it means for small business


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