SINGAPORE: Singapore will sign the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) next week, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang on Friday (Mar 2).
The signing of the CPTPP – also dubbed TPP-11 – follows negotiations earlier this year by the remaining 11 countries to settle on a revised version of the TPP after the withdrawal of the United States.
Singapore is also involved in the ongoing talks for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as well as negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with major regional blocs like the Eurasian Economic Union and the Pacific Alliance, Mr Lim revealed during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.
The joining of regional FTAs like these will expand Singapore’s connectivity, which remains core to its survival and prosperity, he noted.
“Having free and open markets is critical for Singapore’s development,” he said.
“It is by staying open to trade, people, and ideas that we can participate in global growth, and build the deep capabilities needed for our people and companies to access new markets, on-board cutting-edge technologies, and create good jobs.”
Singapore therefore remains committed to the multilateral, rules-based trading system, he said.
Singapore has an extensive network of 22 implemented FTAs and Economic Partnership Agreements with 33 trading partners. These FTAs have helped Singapore firms to benefit from tariff savings of over S$1.1 billion in 2016, according to Mr Lim.
Mr Lim said the Government will continue to work with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the trade associations and chambers (TACs) to help local companies, in particular small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), gain greater awareness and knowledge of how FTAs can be used to their benefit.
These will include company outreach sessions, FTA training courses, and one-on-one sessions to follow-up on specific concerns or opportunities which companies are keen on.
“Our pursuit of FTAs is for the benefit of our companies and their workers,” said Mr Lim.
Singapore will also continue to strengthen connections with existing trading partners and forge new connections with emerging regions.
This will mean working with the European Commission to expedite the ratification of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), said Mr Lim.
FTAs are also reviewed from time to time, and upgraded to ensure that they remain relevant and useful to our businesses. For this, there are ongoing negotiations with China to review and upgrade the China-Singapore FTA.
He said: “The upgrade looks to deepen bilateral benefits by enhancing areas such as investment provisions, trade facilitation, rules of origin, and improved market access for Singapore businesses, especially in the services sectors.”
Over in Asia, rising consumption and demand for infrastructure in the region offer significant export and investment opportunities for Singapore-based companies, said Mr Lim.
For one, Singapore is working with China on commercially meaningful areas in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Singapore companies are well-placed to tap on BRI opportunities, said Mr Lim.
For instance, recognising strong complementarities, Singapore and China are jointly developing the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative Southern Transport Corridor (CCI-STC), which aims to improve connectivity between Western China and Southeast Asia.
Singapore is also collaborating with the Government of Andhra Pradesh in India to develop the State’s new capital city of Amaravati, as well as promote greater economic collaboration with Andhra Pradesh.
He raised the example of Ascendas-Singbridge and Sembcorp Development forming a Singapore Consortium to master-develop the commercial core of Amaravati together with its Government. Since then, Singapore companies have been actively exploring smart-city urban solutions opportunities in Amaravati, said Mr Lim.
Closer to home, Mr Lim said engagements with ASEAN will also be given a boost through regional economic integration and bilateral initiatives.
These include an ASEAN e-commerce agreement that will streamline regional trade rules, as well as an innovation network to bring together stakeholders across the region to spark off new collaborations and testbed innovation opportunities.