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EU lawmakers approve free trade deal with Singapore

February 13, 2019

The free trade deal is the EU's first with a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The European Parliament's approval will clear the path for the deal to come into force as early as this year.

Singapore skyline
Image: picture-alliance/blickwinkel/E. Teister

European lawmakers approved a free trade deal between the EU and Singapore in Strasburg on Wednesday.

The European Parliament approved the deal with a large majority with about two-thirds of the lawmakers voting in favor. The deal, which has been nine years in the making, could come into force before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019.

The agreement is part of the 28-nation bloc's push for more open markets in Asia amid rising trade tensions with the US. Last year, Washington raised tariffs on European steel and aluminum and threatens to do the same on cars and auto parts.

The EU's free trade agreement with Japan, another Asian economic powerhouse, came into force this month. A deal with Vietnam is expected to be signed soon.

Read more: EU-Japan free trade agreement defies protectionism 

The free trade deal — the EU's first with a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) — will "remove virtually all tariffs between the two parties within five years," according to the European Parliament. The EU hopes to use the agreement, which was signed in October last year, as a blueprint for further deals in southeast Asia.

"This is the European Union's first bilateral trade agreement with a Southeast Asian country, a building block towards a closer relationship between Europe and one of the most dynamic regions in the world," European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.

Major trading partner

Singapore is the EU's largest trading partner among ASEAN countries with a total bilateral trade in goods of €53.3 billion ($60.3 billion) in 2017 and in services of €44.4 billion in 2016.

More than 10,000 EU-based companies already use Singapore as a hub for Southeast Asia.

Singapore is also the most preferred destination in Asia for European investment with bilateral investment between the two sides topping €256 billion in 2016.

ap/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)

EU looks East for free trade deals

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