Amid a rising tide of protectionism globally, Singapore and the European Union have affirmed their commitment to a free trade agreement between the two parties.
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom, here on a two-day visit, said the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) "is a key element in the EU's pursuit to further strengthen our trade relations with South-east Asia".
"In a time of rising protectionism in many quarters of the world, we look forward to the entry into force of the EU-Singapore trade agreement," she said in a press release yesterday.
Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang said Singapore and the EU share a firm belief in free, open trade.
"The early ratification of the EUSFTA will demonstrate the EU's resolve as a key player in the global trading system and send a clear signal about the EU's commitment to step up its engagement of the region," he added.
"It will also allow both Singapore and EU companies to tap on numerous growth and collaboration opportunities in Asia and Europe," he added.
The FTA, the first deal between the EU and a South-east Asian country, will provide greater access to each other's markets, including for service providers, investors and companies interested in public procurement.
Customs duties, as well as technical and regulatory barriers to trade, will be removed on both sides, improving trade conditions for goods such as chemicals and food products.
In a commentary published in the Business Times last week, Ms Malmstrom wrote that the FTA will see "tariffs removed in full within five years and technical barriers reduced for electronics, cars, pharmaceuticals and renewables".
Negotiations for the landmark deal began in 2009 and had been concluded in October 2014. However, its ratification has been put on hold pending legal advice from the European Court of Justice on the European Commission's and EU member states' areas of competence in the agreement.
The court's decision is expected in the first half of this year.
In the meantime, the European Commission and Singapore are discussing ways to facilitate the approval process of the FTA, said a press release yesterday.
The EU is Singapore's second largest trading partner, accounting for 11 per cent of global trade, while Singapore is the EU's largest trading partner in Asean.