European Parliament approves EU-Singapore free trade, partnership agreements

The EUSFTA will eliminate tariffs and give businesses across various sectors, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, better market access. (Photo: MCI by Chwee via Facebook / Lee Hsien Loong)

SINGAPORE: Three landmark agreements between Singapore and the European Union (EU) were given the go ahead after a vote in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday (Feb 13).

The European Parliament gave its consent to the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement (EUSIPA) and EU-Singapore Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (ESPCA) following the vote.

The EUSFTA and EUSIPA are the first trade and investment agreements concluded between the EU and a member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in a press release on Wednesday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote in a Facebook post that the ESPCA will complement the other two agreements and provides a basis to "broaden cooperation" in areas such as education, transport, air services as well as science and technology.

Following the approval by the European Parliament, both the EU and Singapore will undertake their "respective internal administrative processes" to enable the EUSFTA to enter into force as soon as possible, said MTI.

The EUSIPA under the EU's processes will be sent to the regional and national parliaments of EU member states for approval before entry into force.

Calling this an "important milestone" in Singapore's bilateral relations with the EU, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran said the two trade and investment agreements (EUSFTA and EUSIPA) would bring strategic and economic benefits to both sides.

"The two agreements are also strategic pathfinders to an eventual EU-ASEAN trade and investment agreement," he said.

"They are a tangible demonstration of the EU and Singapore’s shared commitment to open and rules-based trade and will anchor the EU’s presence in ASEAN."

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The European Parliament’s approval of the EU-Singapore trade and investment agreements marks a historical moment.

"This is the EU’s first bilateral trade agreement with a Southeast Asian country. It is also the first time the EU concludes a self-standing investment protection agreement at EU level; an agreement that – in line with the EU's new approach - will improve the protection of European investors and their investments, while fully safeguarding governments' power to regulate in the public interest.”

The landmark EUSFTA will eliminate tariffs and give businesses across various sectors, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), better market access.

Singapore will remove tariffs on all EU products entering Singapore, while the EU will remove tariffs on 84 per cent of all Singapore products entering the EU within the first year, with the remaining 16 per cent to follow over a period of three to five years.

The EU is Singapore's third largest trading partner, with bilateral trade in goods exceeding S$114 billion in 2018.

Singapore is the also largest EU trading partner in ASEAN, with more than 10,000 EU companies established here to serve the Pacific region.

In 2018, Singapore’s total exports in goods to the EU were about S$49 billion, while imports from the EU totalled about S$65 billion.

Source: CNA