SINGAPORE: The negotiation outcomes of a free trade agreement between Singapore and the European Union have been presented to the European Council, a development hailed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on Friday (Apr 20) as an “important step” in the ratification process of the trade pact.
It also demonstrated commitment by the European Commission to the early implementation of the European Union-Singapore free trade agreement (EUSFTA), which will benefit companies from EU and Singapore, added the spokesperson in response to Channel NewsAsia’s queries.
“We welcome the news from the EU that the ratification of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is moving forward,” said MTI.
The European Commission on Wednesday presented the negotiation outcomes for the trade and investment agreement with Singapore to the 28 EU member states. In a statement released by the EU delegation to Singapore, the move was described as a "key step” towards the signing and conclusion of the EUSFTA.
The initialled agreement now needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers and ratified by the European Parliament. The aim is for the EUSFTA to come into force before the European Commission's mandate ends in 2019, according to the statement.
Given that the EUSFTA is the first deal between the EU and a Southeast Asian economy, EU Ambassador to Singapore Barbara Plinkert described the trade pact as a “stepping stone towards greater engagement” between the EU and Southeast Asia.
Singapore is already a gateway for European companies in the region, she said. More than 10,000 EU companies have a presence in Singapore and use it as a hub to serve the Pacific region. Singapore is also the top destination for European investments in Southeast Asia.
“With this agreement, the EU has made an important stride towards setting high standards and rules for the important and fast-growing Southeast Asian region,” Ambassador Plinkert said.
With negotiations concluding in 2014, the EUSFTA aims to provide opportunities for consumers and producers by eliminating customs duties on qualifying goods. Services providers, investors and companies will also be allowed greater protection and access to each other’s markets, including in the area of public procurement.
Singapore is the EU's largest commercial partner in ASEAN, accounting for slightly under one-third of EU-ASEAN trade in goods and services, and roughly two-thirds of investments between the two regions.
Meanwhile, the EU is Singapore’s biggest investor and third-largest trading partner. In 2017, bilateral trade grew 5.6 per cent year-on-year to S$98.4 billion, making up slightly more than 10 per cent of Singapore’s total trade.
Additional reporting by Nicole Chang.