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EUSFTA approved, targeted to come into force on Nov 21

THE European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) has received final approval from the Council of the European Union, with the aim being for it to enter into force on Nov 21, 2019, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran and European Commissioner-Designate for Trade Phil Hogan jointly announced at the EUSFTA Gala Dinner at the Grand Hyatt last night.

The Council adopted the decision to conclude the EUSFTA in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, marking the final stage in the EU’s internal approval process. Both sides will now complete their respective remaining administrative processes, with a view to enable the EUSFTA to enter into force on Nov 21.

This is the culmination of a nearly decade-long journey. Negotiations began in December 2009 and were concluded in October 2014.

Upon its entry into force, tariffs will be eliminated for all EU products entering Singapore, and 84 per cent of all Singapore exports to the EU. Tariffs on the remaining 16 per cent will be removed over a period of three to five years. These include selected meat and seafood produce, fruits, textiles, and consumer goods.

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The EUSFTA also brings improved market access for Singapore firms to various services sectors in the EU, from professional services and telecommunications to transport and manufacturing.

Singapore firms will get enhanced access to city-level and municipal-level government procurement opportunities in the EU, including in railway services, computer services, telecommunication services, and landscape architecture services.

Unnecessary technical barriers to trade will be removed in areas such as duplicative testing and certification for electronics, motor vehicles and vehicle parts, and pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Protection of intellectual property rights will be improved, with the EUSFTA providing for 70 years of copyright protection. Singapore-based producers can collect royalties for productions exported to the EU.

The EUSFTA also fosters green public tenders. Green technology, extending to green financing and procurement, is one area with “scope to do more”, Mr Iswaran told the media.

“This is one of the areas where we will then have to follow up after this agreement to see how we can bring the businesses closer together, and if necessary also some of the financial institutions, in order to take this forward,” he said.

Mr Hogan noted that one of the priorities for the next European Commission, which will start on Dec 1, is a “European Green Deal”. Singapore can now tap opportunities arising from the proposed initiatives in areas such as environmental services, business equipment, and software, he added.

In a speech at the dinner, Mr Iswaran noted that the EUSFTA arose from a vision of a larger, region-to-region deal between the Asean and the EU, playing a role as a “pathfinder” for other FTAs between the EU and Asean countries, as an alternative pathway towards an eventual EU-Asean pact.

The EU has already concluded negotiations on an FTA with Vietnam, is in the midst of negotiations with Indonesia, and may soon resume discussions with Thailand, he added.

As for Singapore and the EU, Mr Iswaran said: “We will continue to look for ways to take our partnership forward, both on the bilateral front and at multilateral forums.” These include working on the World Trade Organisation Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce.