European fans of Singapore food will be delighted to learn that lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and roti prata (South Indian flatbread) can now enter the EU tariff-free, but on a more serious note, it is felt that the FTA’s impact “goes to the heart of sectors and issues that matter for Singapore including electronics, pharmaceuticals, and chemical manufacturing”.
Negotiations on the Agreement between Singapore and the EU began in 2009. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, the EUSFTA signals the EU’s commitment to step up its engagement with Southeast Asia: It is a pathfinder for the EU’s FTAs with other ASEAN Member States and an important building block towards a potential EU-ASEAN FTA.
Significantly, the UK will only enjoy the benefit of the EUSFTA up to March 2019, when the country is due to leave the EU in the process known notoriously as Brexit. Obviously Britain will also have no access to any future EU-ASEAN FTA.
There can be no doubt that post-war moves to encourage and facilitate freer trade have had a dramatic effect on reducing global poverty levels. Billions of people – particularly in Asia – have benefitted from greater access to education, financing, opportunities and trade especially through internationally-led programmes that made it possible for Asian economies to market their talent, products and energy. Today, in addition to India, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines – dubbed the VIP nations – have been the shining growth opportunity stars for Western investors, market makers and enterprises.
And yet here we are, less than ten years later, looking at “reforms to trade policy” in some major economies that run completely counter to strategies that have been successful for more than 70 years.
The EUSFTA is therefore to be welcomed, not only because of its immediate positive impact on trade between Singapore and Europe, but because it is a clear statement of belief in the orderly, progressive, rules-based, multi-lateral trade arrangements that have served the world so well.