S'pore hopes free-trade pact with EU can be ratified by May

S'pore hopes free-trade pact with EU can be ratified by May

Europe remains an important partner to Singapore, which hopes its trade pact with the European Union can be ratified by next May, President Tony Tan Keng Yam told Singapore media at the end of a seven-day state visit to Hungary and the Slovak Republic.

The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement will remove tariffs and other barriers to trade, as well as ease market access. Both sides have finished negotiations and Singapore has been lobbying for a swift ratification before the term of the current European Parliament ends in May.

"Once the session ends... you'll have to start the whole process again," Dr Tan said.

One obstacle is that the finalised text still has to be translated into the EU's 24 official and working languages before it can be ratified.

If that is not done before the end of this session of the European Parliament, waiting for a new Parliament to be formed and the ratification process to begin anew could mean a delay of six to 12 months.

The President was glad that his counterparts in both Hungary and the Slovak Republic pledged their support for speedy ratification, adding that it was important to engage as many member states as possible on the issue.

Seeking such support was one aim of his visit, as it was of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to France and Poland last month.

While not all of Europe's problems have been resolved, no one today doubts the continued unity of the economic bloc, said Dr Tan.

"One must not forget that in the case of Europe, (even) with all of these present-day difficulties, they have very deep strengths in industrial capability," he said. "I remain confident about Europe."

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