ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Singapore hopes for early ratification of EU-S'pore Free Trade Agreement
Singapore is hopeful the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) can be ratified early.
Singapore has been pushing for early ratification, with President Tony Tan Keng Yam's state visit to Slovakia and Hungary coming after the most recent visit to France and Poland by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Dr Tan also underlined the need for Singapore to continue engaging even more countries in the EU for their support.
He was speaking to Singapore media in Bratislava, at the end of his seven-day visit.
He described his visit to the two countries as successful, after adding Slovakia and Hungary to the list of EU countries to have signalled their strong support for the early ratification of the EU-Singapore FTA.
The EU-Singapore FTA will be signed by both parties early next year. It will then be presented to the European Parliament for ratification. Singapore hopes the FTA can come into force by 2015.
Dr Tan said it is important to get the FTA ratified before the current session of the European Parliament ends in the middle of next year.
The FTA is currently being translated in 24 languages for the 28 EU member countries.
Dr Tan said: "That's the danger if we don't catch this, and settle it by May next year, then there will be a new session of parliament. There will be other pressing issues. It has taken us many years to come to this point, and we have settled all the contentious parts. So, it will be a pity if we cannot settle it May 2014."
Even though early ratification is a challenge, Dr Tan is optimistic Singapore will be able to meet the deadline. However, if the FTA cannot be settled then, there will be a delay of six to 12 months before the agreement can be ratified by the European Parliament.
Dr Tan stressed that the FTA is important because despite the crisis, Europe still holds good prospects for businesses.
During his visits to Hungary and Slovakia, Dr Tan also described the two countries as frontier markets in Europe.
He urged Singapore companies to use them as gateways to the larger markets in the continent.
Dr Tan said: "For Singapore, it's very important for us that while we develop or establish a market in Southeast Asia, in the region around us, we continue to look for new frontier markets which are undeveloped, and where we have some advantage in order to build our little niche."
Besides strengthening economic links, Dr Tan would also like to establish other areas of cooperation such as in scientific research and development.
He noted Hungary and Slovakia are well established in science, research and technology. He hoped more collaboration can be undertaken with research institutions from the two countries.
In addition, Dr Tan is keen to promote more people-to-people ties, especially in the area of tourism and cultural exchanges.
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