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Shared outlook, mutual interests cement firm EU-Singapore ties

Both economies are deeply intertwined, anchored by significant trade, investment, and people-to-people ties.

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"Looking ahead, another major area for EU-Singapore cooperation is the digital economy. The EU and Singapore are both progressive, digitally mature economies and there are many areas of common interest between us," says Mr Iswaran.

SINGAPORE and the European Union (EU) share excellent and growing bilateral relations. We are like-minded partners with enduring mutual interests and a shared outlook on many international issues, most notably the primacy of the open and rules-based multilateral system that underpins global peace and prosperity.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore and the EU continue to work with one another and our partners to keep trade links open and supply chains connected.

Our economies remain deeply intertwined, anchored by significant trade, investment, and people-to-people ties.

For decades, large and small European companies alike have contributed to the Singapore economy, creating exciting jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans.

Today, Singapore plays host to more than 10,000 European businesses, while the vibrant European community contributes to the rich tapestry and dynamism of our society. Singapore, in turn, is the EU's largest ASEAN trading partner and the third-largest Asian investor in the EU.

The EUSFTA epitomises the strong and multi-faceted nature of our robust economic partnership.

Comprehensive agreement

It is a high-standard and comprehensive agreement, containing extensive tariff liberalisation and market access commitments, as well as provisions on 21st century trade issues like intellectual property, renewable energy, and sustainable development.

The continued relevance of the EUSFTA - more than a decade since the launch of negotiations in 2009 - is testament to its high quality.

Like Singapore's other FTAs, the EUSFTA provides certainty and predictability while opening doors to overseas markets. This is especially important for businesses navigating the current global economic slowdown.

I encourage businesses, particularly our SMEs, to continue to take full advantage of this agreement to access new markets and new growth opportunities abroad.

While we manage the health and economic challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the EUSFTA would help bolster our recovery by facilitating trade and investment.

The EUSFTA is also a strategic agreement to enhance region-to-region connectivity between the EU and ASEAN.

The agreement is the EU's first FTA with an ASEAN Member and a pathfinder towards our shared vision of an eventual EU-ASEAN FTA.

There is immense potential here. The EU is the world's largest single market. As for ASEAN, we are a young and fast-growing market of over 600 million people. By some estimates, ASEAN will be the fourth largest economic bloc by 2030.

As we mark the first anniversary of the EUSFTA, I would like to express my appreciation to our business chambers and stakeholders who are helping companies tap the full potential of the agreement.

Indeed, we have many friends of Singapore and the EU who continue to champion and advocate an ever-closer Singapore-EU partnership.

I would also like to thank the Singapore and EU officials who have worked tirelessly to bring the EUSFTA to fruition, and who continue to ensure its smooth implementation.

Untapped potential

Looking ahead, another major area for EU-Singapore cooperation is the digital economy. The ASEAN region's internet economy could treble to US$300 billion by 2025 and there is much untapped potential.

The EU and Singapore are both progressive, digitally mature economies and there are many areas of common interest between us. I am glad that we are continuing discussions on how we can strengthen our digital cooperation, especially given the increasing digitalisation of trade.

Such bilateral discussions will further complement our shared efforts at the WTO to create baseline rules for global digital commerce. I am confident that our Singapore-EU partnership and cooperation will continue to grow from strength-to-strength in the years and decades to come.

  • S Iswaran is Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

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