Straits Herald November 9, 2019

A landmark trade deal between the EU and Singapore, a major hub for European businesses in Asia, will go into effect on November 21, a statement said on Friday.

Both sides have praised the deal as a strong rebuke to the rising protectionism that has been championed by US President Donald Trump in Washington.

Export powerhouse Singapore is by far the EU’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, with a total bilateral trade in goods of over 53 billion euros ($59 billion) and another 51 billion euros of trade in services. 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the deal as “a building block towards a closer relationship between Europe and one of the most dynamic regions in the world,” a statement said.

S. Iswaran, Singapore’s trade minister, said the deal’s entry into force “is a strong signal by two like-minded partners on the need to continue upholding open and rules-based trade,” Bloomberg reported.

The parties have also agreed an investment protection agreement, but this is the more controversial as it sets up a special court to decide business conflicts.

After a successful battle spearheaded by environmentalists in Europe, this aspect of the deal will need the national ratification by the EU’s 28 member states before entering into effect. That process that could years.

The deal with Singapore came after the EU suspended efforts to strike a bloc deal with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2009 amid widespread disagreements, including European concerns over Myanmar’s human rights record.

The EU has instead pursued deals with individual ASEAN countries and has concluded a pact with Vietnam.