As part of our “Brexit and MSE” series, today we look at two further possible models of a post-Brexit trading relationship between the UK and the EU based on the ones between (i) the EU and Hong Kong and (ii) the EU and Singapore.

Hong Kong

As a founding member of the World Trade Organization (“WTO“) Hong Kong is known for its open and free multilateral trading system. Hong Kong concluded a Customs Cooperation Agreement with the EU in 1999 which solidified strong trading ties with the EU. All EU exports (with very few exceptions) enter and exit Hong Kong without incurring any customs tariffs, and there are minimal license requirements, which contribute to making Hong Kong a significant trading partner for the EU. Imports from the EU are free to compete with locally made products and those from Hong Kong’s other trading partners, and foreign and locally-owned enterprises are treated equally in most respects. Hong Kong is one of the world’s largest film and television content exporters, while the EU is one of Hong Kong’s largest merchandise trading partners.

Free movement of people can readily be achieved via working visas supported by a local employer sponsor.

Hong Kong’s data protection laws are amongst the most sophisticated in Asia. However, in view of the recent changes to EU data protection laws such as the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation, it is likely that an upcoming review of the Hong Kong regime (due to occur in the next 18 months) will result in the implementation of controls regulating overseas data transfers. While unlikely to hinder the free movements of goods and personnel across borders in the media, sports and entertainment industries, it will affect the handling of personal data, and the transfer of data outside of Hong Kong is likely to become more burdensome.

Neither the European state aid rules or the Audio Visual Media Services Directive applies (therefore locally produced TV programmes are not deemed to be ‘European Works’).


Singapore’s open and trade-driven economy allows for the city-state to be a major shipping and trade hub in Asia. It operates a free-flow policy on goods and capital, making it a popular trading partner for the EU. Singapore is the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (“ASEAN”) member to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU, namely the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“EUSFTA”), originally due to come into force at the end of 2015, but has experienced delays in ratification. With similar business and legal practices, Singapore is the largest ASEAN trading partner of the EU, while EU ranks third in Singapore’s global trading partners. Even though certain provisions within the EUSFTA will result in tariffs being applied for certain products relevant to the media, sport and entertainment industries (e.g. sporting equipment), the EUSFTA will ensure that EU exporters have duty free access even if Singapore raises duties in the future.

The EUSFTA does not specifically cover free movement of people. In general, working visas can be obtained in Singapore on application supported by a local employer. Processing time routinely takes at least 3 months and there are requirements to protect work opportunities for local residents.

Singapore closely follows the EU’s data protection framework in applying stringent standards for overseas data transfers. The EUSFTA involves a mutual recognition of these standards. In light of its current similarity with EU practices, the recent update of the General Data Protection Regulation is not anticipated to pose any amendments to Singapore’s current laws.

Neither the European state aid rules or the Audio Visual Media Services Directive applies (therefore locally produced TV programmes are not deemed to be ‘European Works’).