Thursday, March 4, 2010
The European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, and Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Lim Hng Kiang, have officially launched the first round of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Singapore.
It was said that the EU-Singapore FTA (EUSFTA) marks a milestone in the EU's longstanding relations with Singapore. De Gucht was of the opinion that "the proposed free-trade agreement will strengthen economic ties between Singapore and the EU, provide new opportunities for traders and consumers alike, and contribute to generating growth in our economies."
Lim Hng Kiang added: "The EU is an important economic partner of Singapore. This FTA is a major undertaking and when concluded, will further strengthen the excellent economic relations between Singapore and the EU. Singapore looks forward to working closely with the EU to develop an ambitious agreement that will benefit businesses from both sides."
The first round of negotiations is scheduled to take place from March 8-12, 2010, in Singapore. At the end of their meeting, Lim Hng Kiang and Karel De Gucht expressed the commitment of both Singapore and the EU to work towards an expeditious conclusion of a high-quality FTA.
Singapore and the EU enjoy close economic ties that, it is hoped, will be boosted further by the EUSFTA. The EU is Singapore’s largest trading partner and foreign investor.
Bilateral trade exceeded EUR55bn (USD39bn) in 2008. Conversely, Singapore is the EU's most important trading partner in the Asian region and, particularly, its largest trading partner among the ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that, overall, have an annual bilateral trade in goods and services of some EUR175bn with the EU.
Both sides also enjoy robust bilateral investment ties. Over the years, Singapore and the EU have invested over EUR100bn in each other’s economies. Already, it was added, EU companies in many sectors have chosen Singapore as a hub from which to serve the Pacific Rim region.
EU had pursued talks on a region-to-region FTA with ASEAN from 2007 until their pause in March 2009. Later last year, the EU member states gave the green light to pursue negotiations towards FTAs with the individual countries within ASEAN.
While opening FTA negotiations with Singapore, De Gucht disclosed that the EU’s ultimate goal is still to achieve an agreement within a regional framework; the bilateral agreements with single ASEAN countries becoming building blocks towards that objective.
“Although Singapore is the 'first one in,' our door remains open for other ASEAN countries interested in negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with us,” he stated. While previously in Hanoi, he had been able to announce that Vietnam and the EU would also start negotiations on a bilateral agreement.