BRUSSELS - Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing arrives in Belgium on Wednesday (July 11) for a three-day trip to Brussels and Paris, where he will focus on strengthening trade and innovation links between Singapore and Europe.
A key aim is to reaffirm Singapore's interest in swiftly ratifying the free trade deal and investment protection agreement with the European Union (EU), which was Singapore's third largest trading partner last year.
The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) will be on the agenda when Mr Chan meets officials from the Council of the EU, European Commission and European Parliament while in Brussels. They will also discuss the latest developments in trade policy.
Among representatives he will meet are EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, European Commission vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness Mr Jyrki Katainen and Austrian Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs Dr Margarete Schrambock.
Austria currently holds the presidency of the Council of the EU.
Negotiations on the EUSFTA concluded in October 2014, and the pact was presented to the European Council in April, in the first step towards signing it. It now needs to be sent to the European Parliament or approval.
The aim is for the agreement to come into force before the European Commission's mandate ends in 2019.
Trade between Singapore and the EU grew to S$98.4 billion last year, making up slightly more than 10 per cent of Singapore's total trade.
On Thursday, while in Paris, Mr Chan will meet French leaders to reaffirm Singapore's strong bilateral economic relations with France, and also seek its continued support for the EUSFTA.
France is Singapore's second largest trading partner in the EU, with bilateral trade last year coming close to S$17 billion.
Mr Chan will also visit start-up campus Station F to better understand the vibrant innovation culture in France.
This will underscore Singapore's continued commitment to deepen innovation linkages with France, as part of the France-Singapore Year of Innovation 2018, during which both countries will ramp up cooperation in innovation and research.
This includes programmes to promote research and development, and support innovation entrepreneurs.
During his visit, Mr Chan will also witness the signing of several deals which aim to establish Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) programmes in Paris.
The alliance was launched last year to strengthen Singapore's links to innovation hubs around the world, to create more opportunities for Singaporeans students, entrepreneurs and businesses to connect and collaborate with their overseas counterparts and gain overseas experience.
Mr Chan will be accompanied on his trip by officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.