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UK and Singapore sign free trade agreement as Brexit deadline nears

The new deal mirrors Singapore’s deal with the EU and provides both countries easy access to each other’s services 

Stuti Mishra
Thursday 10 December 2020 07:01 GMT
Boris Johnson arrives in Brussels for post-Brexit trade talks on 9 December, 2020.
Boris Johnson arrives in Brussels for post-Brexit trade talks on 9 December, 2020. (AFP via Getty Images)

The UK and Singapore signed a £17bn free trade agreement on Thursday in order to give both countries increased access to each other’s markets.

The deal was signed at a ceremony in Singapore early on Thursday between the UK's international trade secretary Liz Truss, and Singapore's trade minister, Chan Chun Sing, and comes with the end of the Brexit transition process looming on 31 December.

The deal removes tariffs for both the countries in each other’s markets, making trade more accessible. There will also be a reduction in non-tariff barriers in four major sectors - electronics, motor vehicles and parts, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and renewable energy.

The new agreement is on similar lines with the one Singapore has with the European Union and is part of the UK's attempts at maintaining trade pacts as the transition process officially ends for it to leave the bloc.

Under the agreement, tariffs will remain eliminated for 84 per cent of all tariff lines for Singapore exports to the UK, said a joint ministerial statement by Singapore and the UK.

“Singapore Asian food products such as har gow (prawn dumplings) and sambal ikan bilis (spicy crispy anchovies) will continue to enter the UK tariff-free under flexible rules of origin, up to a combined quota of 350 tonnes annually,” the joint statement added.

“Singapore will also continue to bind our current level of duty-free access for all UK products entering Singapore, and maintain protections on iconic UK goods such as Scotch whisky.”

All of the tariffs will be eliminated by 21 November 2024, similar to the EU-Singapore FTA.

Singapore’s trade minister Mr Chang said at the event: "Beyond the significant benefits to our respective businesses, the (deal) is a strong statement against protectionism and nativism."

He also said that it will be "crucial in ensuring a strong and resilient post-pandemic recovery for the world".

This is the UK’s first FTA with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It was especially key for Singapore which ranks the UK as its third-largest trading partner. The countries shared $13bn worth of trade in 2019, according to the official figures of the government of Singapore, quoted by Nikkei Asia.

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