EU-Singapore FTA Step Closer To Becoming A Reality
British High Commission Singapore
EU-Singapore FTA, agreed at the end of 2012, initialled by chief negotiators on 20 September. Significant milestone in EU trade relations with Singapore and, as the first FTA in the region, SE Asia. But EU ratification will likely take another year, possibly longer if the European Parliament doesn’t approve it before next year’s elections. UKTI will work with the Chamber and the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and Singapore under the UK-Singapore Economic and Business Partnership, to promote the benefits to UK firms.
EU-Singapore FTA negotiations were concluded at the end of last year, after two and a half years of discussions. The FTA was initialled by chief negotiators Keith Tan (Singapore) and Rupert Schlegelmilch (EU) on 20 September in Singapore. The 700-800 page document (available online) will now be translated into all 24 official European languages.
The FTA delivers a number of benefits to UK firms. Import tariffs will be reduced for alcohol products (one of the few items subject to significant import tariffs in Singapore), but the prices of imported European drinks are unlikely to drop much in Singapore as the FTA doesn’t cover excise duties. The agreement improves on WTO commitments on public procurement and services and addresses a number of non-market access issues such as removing duplicative testing requirements for automobiles, electronics, and green technologies. Recognition of national standards will also remove the need for costly inspection and certification of individual meat exporters. The FTA offers improvement over existing WTO commitments on intellectual property protection for ‘Geographical Indications’ (though only one of the 196 covered by the FTA is British – Scotch Whisky).
The timetable for implementation remains unclear. Once the FTA text, along with the investment chapter (not yet concluded) and the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA, agreed in June when Baroness Ashton was here for the Shangri-La Dialogue), has been translated it will be submitted to the Council of Ministers. A provisional date for implementation could then be set, subject to approval by the European Parliament. The European Parliament’s consent would be required by April 2014 if it is to be approved before it goes into recess for the elections. Otherwise, implementation could slip to 2015.
The large discrepancy between the size of the two economies and starting points on tariff lines mean Singapore stands to gain more economically from this agreement. The EU will hope that progress achieved on market access will give impetus to ongoing negotiations with Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand –and, ultimately – an agreement with ASEAN.
In terms of publicising the benefits of the FTA, the Commission will produce an executive summary and the EU Delegation and Euro Chamber in Singapore are planning outreach activities. A priority for us will be working with the UK-ASEAN Business Council and the British Chamber here to highlight the opportunity for UK firms. This will also be a focus for the UK-Singapore Economic and Business Partnership.
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