Singapore hopes its free trade agreement (FTA) with Europe, once ratified, will serve as "a building block for an EU-Asean FTA", said Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and for Foreign Affairs.
She was speaking at the launch of a book on the last half-century of Singapore's relations with Europe.
Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh took it further, throwing open a friendly challenge: for the European Union to offer to negotiate such an FTA with Asean, and eventually with the larger Asian region.
EU ambassador to Singapore Michael Pulch replied that the EU will do a "stock-take" by the end of this year on the prospects of an FTA with the South-east Asian bloc.
For instance, it will look at why a previous round of negotiations stalled in 2009. "We are looking at bilateral FTAs as stepping stones," he added. Negotiations for the EU-Singapore FTA ended last year, with the deal still to be ratified by member states.
Both Professor Koh and Dr Pulch contributed to the new book, 50 Years of Singapore-Europe Relations: Celebrating Singapore's Connections with Europe, which contains 30 essays by politicians, ambassadors and academics.
Other contributors include Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
Costing $54 in hardcover and $28 in paperback, the book is the third in a 25-volume series by World Scientific Publishing that commemorates Singapore's 50th birthday. Previous volumes focused on social and gender issues, while upcoming ones will deal with topics such as food and ethnic communities.