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Singapore, South America customs union Mercosur start free trade negotiations

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From left: Argentina Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Daniel Raimondi, Paraguay Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Federico González, Uruguay Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Ariel Bergamino, Singapore Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat, and Brazil’s Ambassador to Mexico Mauricio Lyrio.

SINGAPORE and the South American customs union Mercosur have started negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA), officials from both sides announced on Monday on the sidelines of the 13th Pacific Alliance Summit held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Mercosur comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, representing a collective market of more than 260 million people and a GDP (gross domestic product) of US$2.5 trillion. Singapore's total trade in goods with the Mercosur countries amounted to S$3.97 billion in 2017, while trade in services amounted to S$2.69 billion in 2016. Singapore’s stock of direct investment abroad in the four countries was S$1.91 billion as at end-2016.

The launch of the FTA negotiations was announced by Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat and his counterparts Argentina's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Daniel Raimondi, Brazil's Ambassador to Mexico Mauricio Lyrio, Paraguay's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Federico González and Uruguay's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Ariel Bergamino.

Said Mr Chee: “Singapore and Mercosur are committed to fostering closer economic integration. The MSFTA (Mercosur-Singapore FTA) will encourage more trade and reduce barriers for Singapore businesses to explore opportunities in the Mercosur markets. It will also facilitate investments from companies in Mercosur who are interested to expand their presence in South-east Asia by using Singapore as a regional hub.”

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According to a Ministry of Trade and Industry statement on Tuesday, there were 94 registered companies from Mercosur countries in Singapore and about 68 known overseas affiliates from Singapore to Mercosur as at 2016. Both Enterprise Singapore and the Economic Development Board have offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Singapore’s business interests in the bloc are in the oil and gas, agribusiness, manufacturing, hospitality and logistics sectors. Singapore companies present in the four countries include Ascott, Changi Airports International, SMRT Corporation, Olam International, Wilmar International and Sunningdale Tech.