Singapore and China emerge with upgraded free-trade agreement after 3 years of negotiations

Photo: Facebook screengrab

Three years of trade negotiations between China and Singapore have just ended, with an agreement to upgrade the free-trade agreement between the two countries.

The Commerce Ministry of China announced in a statement on Monday, November 5, that an agreement was made in a meeting between Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, and Fu Ziying, China’s Vice-Commerce Minister whilst the China International Import Expo in Shanghai was ongoing.

The two nation began to talk about upgrading the free-trade agreement in November of 2015, after Xi Jinping, the President of China, paid a visit to Singapore. The original trade agreement between Singapore and China was implemented at the beginning of 2009.

The upgraded agreement spans wider economic cooperation on financial and legal services between the two nations, including e-commerce and the environment. It will be signed at a later date.

In a speech that opened the import expo, President Xi announced that China will open its economy even further, as well as reduce import tariffs in the current atmosphere of economic uncertainty in many places around the globe.

The president also said that the world’s second-largest economy is encouraging trade talks with Europe, Japan, and South Korea, heightening domestic consumption and building up enforcement of the protection of intellectual property.

China has boosted its efforts to create a global trade network by using free-trade deals to come against protectionism as well as diversify its markets. China is currently negotiating 12 new or improved free trade agreements, in addition to the 17 existing ones with 25 different countries.

The Lion City is counted as one of the largest foreign direct investors in China, which in turn is Singapore’s biggest trading partner.

Read related: Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing: Countries need to adjust, since US-China trade war may take long to resolve

The current free-trade agreement stipulated that 95 percent of exports from Singapore to China are exempt from duties, and exports from China to Singapore are not subject to tariffs. The upgraded agreement is hoped to give greater investment protection to Singaporean firms while making market access in China even better.

In July, when the seventh round of talks concerning the upgrades to the free-trade agreement occurred in Singapore, China announced that together with Singapore, it would send a message of a strong stand when it comes to trade liberalization.

Mr. Chan wrote about his meeting with Mr. Fu on his Facebook account. “I also met the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s Vice Minister of Commerce and China International Trade Representative Fu Ziying on the sidelines of the CIIE today, and am happy to announce that we have concluded the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) upgrade negotiations. The upgraded agreement will provide Singapore businesses with improved market access and greater certainty in their investments.”