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EU, Singapore Conclude Landmark Trade Talks

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

17 December 2012


After more than two years of talks, the European Commission has concluded the negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore.

Negotiations between the European Union (EU) and Singapore began in March, 2010, and were completed on December 16, 2012, by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Singapore's Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang.

The deal is designed to create new opportunities across a range of services sectors. In particular, the Commission says that the services chapter "is set to become a new benchmark in services negotiations." Both sides will now undertake a far-reaching liberalization of their services markets, and apply new disciplines on non-discrimination and transparency.

The treaty will also offer better access to public tenders and reduce non-tariff barriers in key industries. A high level of intellectual property rights protection was agreed to, and the principles of sustainable development in trade will be enshrined in the FTA. Comprehensive rules will be introduced on competition and state aid, along with a new regime to tackle barriers to trade and investment in renewable energy generation.

Singapore is the EU's 13th largest goods trading partner and its largest trading partner in the ten-member Association of South-East Nations (ASEAN). This FTA is the EU's first with a member of ASEAN, although it is also negotiating deals with Malaysia and Vietnam, with a longer-term objective of a region-to-region agreement. In 2010, the existing stock of bilateral investment between the EU and Singapore reached EUR190bn (USD250bn).

Announcing the completion of negotiations, De Gucht said: "Singapore is a dynamic market for EU companies and is a vital hub for doing business across Southeast Asia. This agreement is key to unlocking the gateway to the region and can be a catalyst for growth for EU exporters. After our agreement with South Korea, sealing this deal with Singapore clearly puts the EU on the map in Asia. But we do not intend to stop here – I hope it will open the doors for FTAs with other countries in the ASEAN region."

Both sides will now seek endorsement from their respective political authorities. According to the Commission, the draft agreement is likely to be initialed next spring.

TAGS: business | European Commission | free trade agreement (FTA) | energy | intellectual property | Singapore | Malaysia | trade | European Union (EU) | Vietnam | services | Europe

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