The European Union and Singapore should complete talks on a free trade agreement in a few months and implement the pact by the end of 2011, aiming to double trade within five years, a top EU negotiator said Wednesday.
The trade pact would eliminate several hundred million dollars a year in EU tariffs that Singapore companies currently pay, Chief EU Negotiator Rupert Schlegelmilch said.
"We're still discussing technical issues like rules of origin and tariff and services liberalization," Schlegelmilch said at a news conference in Singapore. "But on all these chapters we're very advanced."
The EU is also deep into trade agreement negotiations with India and Malaysia and is considering beginning talks with Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, Schlegelmilch said.
Trade between the EU and Singapore jumped 22 percent last year, led by higher demand for machinery and transport equipment. Despite a population of just 5.1 million, Singapore is the EU's 12th-largest trading partner with two-way trade of euros 43 billion ($62 billion) last year and the fifth-biggest in Asia behind China, Japan, India and South Korea.
For Singapore, the EU is its second-biggest recipient of the city-state's goods after neighboring Malaysia.
The EU poured Singapore dollars 173 billion ($141 billion) of foreign direct investment into Singapore in 2009, about 30 percent of all FDI to the island compared to 11 percent from the U.S. About 8,500 EU companies have a presence in Singapore.
"You have very often the impression that the EU is on the decline," EU Ambassador to Singapore Marc Ungeheuser said. "But the statistics don't lie."
The EU accounts for 28 percent of the global economy and has a population of 501 million.