EU-S'pore free trade pact signals shared conviction open rules-based trade is path to growth, prosperity: PM Lee

The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement takes effect on Thursday (Nov 21), almost a decade after negotiations began.
The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement takes effect on Thursday (Nov 21), almost a decade after negotiations began.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The landmark trade agreement between the European Union and Singapore signals a shared conviction that open and global rules-based trade is the path to growth and prosperity, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Nov 20).

The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) takes effect on Thursday, almost a decade after negotiations began. It will reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers and provide Singapore companies with greater market access to all EU member states.

PM Lee described the pact as an important addition to Singapore's extensive network of trade deals, which have enabled local businesses to capitalise on opportunities in diverse markets.

"We hope it will lead eventually to an EU-Asean FTA, enhancing region-to-region connectivity between the EU - the world's largest single market - and Asean, the fourth largest economic bloc, by 2030," he added.

Mr S. Iswaran , the Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, said in a statement on Wednesday: "As an ambitious agreement with forward-looking provisions, it marks a new chapter in EU-Singapore relations and will provide a solid foundation for Singapore and the EU to take our economic partnership to the next level."

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post on Wednesday: "I encourage the Singapore business community, particularly those interested to venture into the EU market, to look at how they can leverage the benefits that the agreement will bring."

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom noted: "This agreement will enhance our bilateral relationship, boost the EU's commitment to Asean, and is a sign of strong support for the rules-based international order."

European Chamber of Commerce president Federico Donato said small and medium-sized enterprises in particular will gain from the trade deal thanks to simplified procedures at Singapore customs, less burdensome technical rules and simplification of rules of origin.

The experiences gained from the EU-Singapore FTA will also help guide subsequent rounds of discussions for a trade pact between the EU and Asean, he added.

The EU-Singapore FTA will allow 84 per cent of Singapore exports, including Asian food products and electronics, to enter the EU duty-free. Other goods, such as meat and seafood products, will follow in the next three to five years.

It will also mean reduced technical barriers to trade and greater opportunities in government procurement projects for Singapore companies in areas like telecommunications and landscape architecture services.