Today Online | 9 July 2014
EU/Singapore FTA on track despite advances by Eurosceptics in poll
By Wong Wei Han
SINGAPORE — The process to finalise and implement the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Singapore and the European Union (EU) will not be affected by the European Parliament elections in May that saw a larger number seats won by Eurosceptic parties.
As the majority of the European Parliament is still formed by the central conservatives and liberals, the administration is very unlikely to block the FTA, said European Union Ambassador to Singapore Dr Michael Pulch today (July 9).
“It’s true that a fair number of EU-skeptical parties have increased their share in the European Parliament, but the core of the parliament — three quarters of the seats — are still taken by mainstream European parties. So the parliament will continue to have a pro-trade approach,” he said.
The EU-Singapore FTA will be the Union’s first such agreement in Southeast Asia. When the FTA is fully implemented, it is expected to contribute around €2.7 billion (S$4.6 billion) to Singapore’s GDP in real terms and €550 million to EU’s economy.
“We still need to finalise the investment agreement. That part is about to be closed — the chief negotiators have agreed in principle ... and will soon present it to the Council Ministers and the European Parliament for signature,” Dr Pulch said. “There’s a provision in the FTA that allows for implementation of the agreement provisionally after signature and before rectification ... and we hope to get the last dots on the line, so that we can present the agreement for signature during the time of this commission before its end in October.”
Dr Pulch’s comments came during the official launch of the EU Business Avenues in Southeast Asia programme yesterday. The EU-funded programme will organise missions for selected European small and medium enterprises to visit Singapore to explore potential business opportunities.
In its pilot stage, EU Business Avenues will focus on the clean energy, interior design and environmental technology sectors, Dr Pulch said, adding that the list of countries visited will be gradually expanded, and the programme aims to bring over 1,000 companies to Southeast Asia over the next five to six years.
The first two missions to Singapore will coincide with the Singapore International Energy Week in October and the International Furniture Fair Singapore in March next year.
“We are very excited that the EU has chosen our industry as a platform for business collaboration,” said the president of Singapore Furniture Industries Council Mr Ernie Koh. “The programme can bring many forms of partnerships between European furniture companies and local businesses, such as contract manufacturing, design or regional marketing.”