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Sat, 21 Sep, 2013 12:00:09 AM
FTimes-Xinhua Report, September 21
 
The European Union (EU) and Singapore on Friday issued the text of their free trade agreement (FTA), signaling the 28-member bloc will soon tap into Southeast Asia's growth potential.
 
"We are pleased to present today one of the most comprehensive free trade agreements ever negotiated, and to submit it to our respective authorities for approval," an EU statement quoted Rupert Schlegelmilch, the bloc's chief negotiator of this trade agreement, who was in Singapore, as saying.
 
The two sides finished negotiations in last December and were expected to sign the agreement in the first half of next year, which should enter into force in late 2014 or early 2015.
 
"This is also the first step toward closer economic ties between the two major integrated regions in the world, the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) and the EU, and their 1.1 billion citizens," Schlegelmilch said.
 
If ratified, the agreement will become the first the EU signs with an ASEAN country, laying the ground for the bloc to enhance trade and economic ties with the whole region.
 
Singapore is the EU's largest trading partner in the ASEAN and Asia's second largest investor in the EU.
 
The EU is Singapore's biggest export destination and a major investor in the city state.
 
Singapore accounts for about a third of all EU-ASEAN trade, more than three-fifths of all investments between the two regions and is host to more than 9,000 European companies.
 
EU statistics say EU-Singapore trade in goods grew by some 40 percent between 2009 and 2011 and trade in services grew by 41 percent in the same period. In 2010, the existing stock of bilateral investment reached 190 billion euros (about 257 billion U.S. dollars).
 
Singaporean official statistics show bilateral trade reached 106 billion Singapore dollars (about 85 billions dollars) in 2011.
 
Negotiations between the two sides on investment protection, which started later, based on a new mandate under the Lisbon Treaty, are making progress.
 
The aim is to integrate the investment chapter into the rest of the text before its final adoption.
 
The EU is pursuing negotiations on free trade agreements with other ASEAN member states Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
 
 
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