Last week, the EU won the support of the European Parliament for a regional trade agreement with six Central American countries and a trade agreement with Colombia and Peru. The Commission hopes to conclude another agreement – with Canada – before the end of the year. However, it is struggling to make progress in the talks with India that began in 2007. In November, it received a mandate to begin discussions on the EU`s largest trade agreement with Japan to date. Cecilia Malmstrom, European Commissioner for Trade, said: “This agreement will strengthen our bilateral relations, strengthen the EU`s commitment to Asean and show strong support for the rules-based international order.” The Commission began discussions with the hope of a quick conclusion by the end of 2011, given that Singapore has already concluded a number of free trade agreements – notably with the United States, China, Japan and India – and that it is a free port with relatively low tariffs and regulatory barriers. The success of the talks was announced today, although the conditions for protecting European investment in Singapore have not yet been clarified. Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009, the EU has been able to negotiate investment protection rules on behalf of the 27 Member States. The Commission hopes that the agreement will be concluded in the spring. Subsequently, the approval of the EU Member States and the European Parliament is required before the agreement enters into force. The Commission wants the process to be completed by the end of 2013. This is the EU`s second free trade agreement in Asia; the first – along with South Korea – came into force in July 2011. However, as tariffs were already low in Singapore, discussions focused on barriers that go beyond borders, such as trade rules and expected product standards, as well as the services sector. Today`s agreement means that Singapore, for example, recognises that EU car standards are appropriate and that professional qualifications are accepted by both sides.
The public procurement market will also be open. According to an opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, the initial AEE was a so-called joint agreement. The opinion was requested by the European Commission, which asked whether the EU institutions were the only ones entitled to conclude the agreement without the Member States being contracting parties.  The Court`s opinion led the European Commission to divide the agreement into a free trade agreement and an investment protection agreement. The EU and Singapore have also concluded an investment protection agreement, which can enter into force after being ratified by all EU member states according to their own national procedures. EU member states today approved the EU-Singapore trade agreement. This means that the agreement will enter into force on 21 November. Bilateral trade and investment negotiations with Singapore began in 2010 and ended in 2017.
The agreements with Singapore are the first to be concluded between the EU and a South-East Asian country and are a step towards stronger engagement between the EU and the region.