Singapore to push for quick EU ratification of free trade deal

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Channel News Asia | 11 July 2018

Singapore to push for quick EU ratification of free trade deal

By Brandon Tanoto

BRUSSELS: Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing is expected to push for the speedy ratification of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement when he meets with his EU counterparts in Brussels and Paris on Wednesday (Jul 11) and Thursday, respectively.

The aim is for the agreement to come into force by next year, before the European Commission’s mandate ends.

This comes against the backdrop of the trade conflict between the US and China, which Mr Chan described in Parliament on Monday as a spat that could “significantly impact” Singapore’s open economy.

US tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese goods kicked in last Friday and in response, China imposed retaliatory tariffs on a similar scale. Washington on Tuesday announced it will slap 10 per cent tariffs on another US$200 billion in Chinese export goods as soon as September.

Private-sector economists have said that the escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies could disrupt the global supply chain.

For instance, Singapore companies that produce immediate goods used in the production of China’s exports to the US may see lower demand for their goods.

As such, Mr Chan said Singapore’s strong trading networks are important because they will help these companies seek out alternative suppliers and new markets.

The EUSFTA is one form of such trading networks, and when ratified, will be the first deal between the EU and an ASEAN country.

The agreement will have significant benefits for businesses and consumers, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said. Besides eliminating tariffs on qualifying goods and removing custom duties on e-commerce, it will also open up more government procurement opportunities for businesses.

Singapore and the EU first launched negotiations of the agreement in 2009 and concluded them in 2014.

In April this year, the European Commission presented the negotiation outcomes to the European Council. For now, this initial agreement needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers and ratified by the European Parliament.

Singapore is the EU’s largest commercial partner in ASEAN, accounting for nearly one-third of EU-ASEAN trade in goods and services and about two-thirds of investment between the two regions.

Meanwhile, the EU is Singapore’s biggest investor and third-largest trading partner - with bilateral trade up 5.6 per cent on-year, hitting S$98.4 billion last year, according to MTI.

While in Paris, Mr Chan will reaffirm Singapore’s bilateral economic ties with France, and seek France’s continued support for the EUSFTA, through meetings with French leaders, the ministry said.

He will visit startup campus Station F, and witness the signing of several agreements aimed at building upon innovation links between France and Singapore, as part of the France-Singapore Year of Innovation 2018.

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