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Merkel urges EU parliaments to ratify Singapore trade deal

[BERLIN] German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged European Union lawmakers to expedite the ratification of a trade deal with Singapore on Tuesday, after meeting the island's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who said he was unsure it could be ratified this year.

"It's in Europe's interests to push through the ratification process quickly," Ms Merkel told a news conference alongside Mr Lee.

Talks on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA)concluded in October with the addition of investor protection clauses, which critics including Germany say give multinationals too much power and risk undermining laws on labour, the environment and food standards.

The Singapore deal, which needs to be ratified by the region's national assemblies and the European Parliament, is the EU's first with a southeast Asian economy and is seen as a stepping stone to similar agreements with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The EU is the largest contributor of foreign direct investment in Singapore, and Singapore is the second largest Asian investor in the EU.