On 19 October 2018, the European Commission announced that the European Union and Singapore have signed three agreements, taking their political, trade, and investment relations to a new level. The agreements signed are the EU-Singapore Trade Agreement, the EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement and the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation. Together, they signify an important step towards increasing the EU’s presence in a fast-growing, important region. The announcement said in part:

The trade agreement with Singapore will remove nearly all remaining tariffs on certain EU products, simplify customs procedures and set high standards and rules. It simplifies trade in goods like electronics, food products and pharmaceuticals, while stimulating green growth. It opens up the market for services like telecommunications, environmental services and engineering. It also includes a comprehensive chapter on trade and sustainable development, setting the highest standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection, as well as strengthening joint actions on sustainable development and climate change.

The Investment Protection Agreement contains all aspects of the EU’s new approach to investment protection and its enforcement mechanisms. It will ensure a high level of investment protection, while safeguarding the EU’s and Singapore’s rights to regulate and pursue public policy objectives such as the protection of public health, safety and the environment.

The trade and investment agreements represent the first building block towards a future region-to-region agreement between the EU and ASEAN.

The Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation, signed by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and her counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, will allow the EU and Singapore to strengthen political, economic and sectoral cooperation across a wide range of fields, including environment, climate change, energy, education and culture, employment and social affairs, science and technology, transport, counter terrorism and the fight against organised crime. It will enhance cooperation on global challenges, where both Singapore and the EU play an increasingly important role, and will help address them in a more coherent way. The Agreement establishes a Joint Committee, which will ensure the proper functioning and implementation of the Agreement.

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Singapore is the fourth such agreement signed with an ASEAN country, following the agreements with Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. It will supersede the current legal framework of the 1980 Cooperation Agreement between the European Economic Community and member countries of ASEAN.

Next steps

The trade and investment agreements will be sent to the European Parliament for consent. The trade agreement could then enter into force before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019, while the investment protection agreement will also follow ratification procedures at Member States level. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will need to be ratified by EU Member States and submitted to the European Parliament before it enters formally into force.