Trade expert Dr Totis Kotsonis, also of Pinsent Masons, said: “Britain`s agreement with Singapore, a state with which it has close historical relations, is the second in Asia and the first with an ASEAN country. Although the agreement is based on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in 2019, the UK is likely to use these new bilateral trade agreements as a basis to strengthen its relations with Singapore, particularly given the importance of both countries as service centres for advanced and open economies. In his speech at the event, Mr Chan stressed that the UK was Singapore`s third and second largest trading partner for goods and services, as well as its top investment target in Europe. In return, Singapore is the UK`s largest trading and investment partner in Southeast Asia. It was based on an existing agreement between the EU and Singapore, which provides for the abolition of tariffs, the opening of reciprocal access to services markets and the removal of non-tariff barriers to goods, vehicles and electronic spare parts, medicines and medical devices, as well as energy production. The document was signed in Singapore by the trade ministers of both countries and will cover trade of more than 18 billion euros per year. “The United Kingdom has made no secret of its intention to use the so-called continuity agreements with Japan, signed in October 2020, and now Singapore, but also Vietnam, which was signed the day after the Singapore Agreement, as a means of further strengthening the UK`s engagement in the region and, ultimately, as a springboard for accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. With Singapore and Vietnam, both asean members, the UK also has an interest in using these agreements to strengthen its relations with the Southeast Asian trading bloc and become, when the time comes, an ASEAN “dialogue partner,” he said. Given the growing economies and middle class in the region, it is not surprising that the UK is setting more and more priorities in its foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region and engaging with Asean.
Both sides can benefit greatly from cooperation on the environment, digitization and trade. “Now that the UK has become a commercially independent nation again, we can join this campaign for free trade,” she said. In addition to the free trade agreement, the United Kingdom and Singapore have committed to entering into negotiations and efforts to conclude a high-level investment agreement within two years and four years of the entry into force of the FREE Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom and Singapore. As the dust of the Brexit whirlwind has gradually subsided, Asian countries will make up for the damage to their assets. The UK`s decision in June to leave the European Union will have a significant impact in Asia, particularly in the area of trade and investment, not least because it will lead to an overhaul of trade agreements between the EU and Asia, particularly with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Vietnam and the United Kingdom, which have been the subject of a strategic partnership since 2010, are expected to conclude a free trade agreement soon. Vietnam`s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed hope for an agreement when he received British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab in Hanoi on 30 September 2020. Despite this promise, the road to EU free trade agreements with ASEAN countries has been fraught with obstacles.