The European Union and Singapore concluded negotiations on a free-trade agreement after almost three years of talks, boosting the bloc’s efforts to increase commerce with Asian nations to revive economic growth.
The EU will eliminate tariffs on all imports from Singapore over five years, while the island will allow duty-free access for all incoming shipments from the region immediately, the city’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement today. The deal will help companies from both signatories to bid for government contracts in the other’s market.
“Both Singapore and the EU will make extensive commitments guaranteeing access to each other’s services markets,” the ministry said. The tariff removals “will benefit Singapore exporters of electronics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and processed food products.”
European and Asian leaders last month called for unfettered commerce and warned against protectionism as the sovereign debt crisis threatens to undermine trade ties between the world’s fastest and slowest-growing regions. The 27-member EU has seen talks lag with China, Japan, India and Southeast Asian countries since 2007. Negotiations with Singapore began in March 2010.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts the euro area’s economy will contract 0.4 percent this year, while that of the developing Asian region may grow 6.7 percent.
The EU suspended in 2009 trade talks with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a bloc with about 600 million people, and is now negotiating separate agreements with individual countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. Similar discussions with India that kicked off in 2007 are stalled.
Trade in goods between the EU and Singapore was valued at S$106 billion ($87 billion) in 2011, the Singapore Trade Ministry said today. Foreign direct investment by the EU into Southeast Asia was 192 billion euros ($253 billion) in 2011, according to the European Chamber of Commerce in the city state. Trade between the two regions has increased 27 percent since 2006 to 161.6 billion euros in 2011, according to the group.
Singapore already has free-trade accords with countries including the U.S., China, Australia, Japan and India.