The Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez; the Deputy Director of the Representation Office of the European Commission of Madrid, Jochen Müller; the president of CEOE International, Marta Blanco; and the general director of the Chamber of Commerce, Immaculate Riera, today opened a meeting at the headquarters of the Business Confederation, to discuss the free trade agreement between the European Union and Singapore, which entered into force on November 21. In turn, the Deputy General Director of EU Trade Policy at the Secretary of State for Trade, Rocío Frutos and the regional director of the Economic Development Board of Singapore, Jacklyn Zhang, analyzed in depth the content of the agreement and the opportunities for business and investment that it represents for Spanish companies.
The Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez, stressed that the EU and Spain share the principle that the best trade policy is to eliminate obstacles to trade and investment and create fair competition conditions and healthy competition, therefore , considered that free trade agreements are one of the best tools to remove obstacles, create equitable conditions and promote the well-being of all participants.
He also explained that the opening of markets has not only been based on tariff reductions, but has also included new areas such as competition, intellectual property protection, customs cooperation, trade in services or sustainable development, among others. "The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is a good example of this and is in perfect harmony with the market diversification strategy that we are firmly committed to from the Secretary of State for Commerce," he said.
The Deputy Director of the Representative Office of the European Commission of Madrid, Jochen Müller, stressed that Spain is a strong defender of the free market and that the Singapore agreement is one of the sixteen that the EU has successfully concluded in the last five years. He also informed that Singapore is a hub for many European companies and that it is one of our biggest partners in the ASEAN region, with 10,000 companies established in the area. Müller highlighted the support of Spanish society for trade agreements. In fact, he explained that, according to the Eurobarometer, 60% of Europeans say they are satisfied with international trade, and in Spain 78% of young people believe that it brings benefits.
New generation agreement
The president of CEOE International, Marta Blanco, stressed that in a context like the current one where “the great reasons fade quickly it was essential to once again strongly claim such important aspects of free trade”. He also assured that Spain fights hard for our companies and associations from different institutions and government bodies. Regarding the EU-Singapore free trade agreement, Blanco stressed that it is a new generation agreement, which not only eliminates tariffs, but also includes, among other issues, the opening in public procurement markets based on national treatment, the geographical indications of origin and the validation of professional titles, such as architecture and engineering. The president of CEOE International also took the opportunity to urge the relevant authorities so that the Investment Protection Agreement with Singapore is approved and enters into force as soon as possible, in order to grant the greatest legal certainty to our companies.
The general director of the Chamber of Spain, Inmaculada Riera, highlighted that although the Spanish business landing in the Southeast Asian region is a relatively recent phenomenon, it is consolidating into strategic sectors. In fact, he said that the ASEAN market, of which Singapore is the epicenter, is the fifth largest economy in the world by GDP, has 650 million consumers and has been growing at an average of 5.5% since 2002. “These are the regions with the greatest potential in the world that offer great opportunities for Spanish companies, and these will be increased with the trade and investment agreements signed with the European Union ”.
The Deputy Director General of EU Trade Policy at the Secretary of State for Trade, Rocío Frutos, highlighted that the agreement offers an ambitious tariff liberalization, clear and flexible rules of origin, enhanced customs cooperation and trade facilitation Regarding services, Frutos spoke of new opportunities for market access, greater certainty and predictability, as well as the right to regulate and protect public services. He also mentioned public procurement, which includes access to additional contracting opportunities and greater transparency and procedural fairness, among other aspects.
Rocío Frutos mentioned other issues that are reflected in the agreement regarding intellectual property; the rules regarding competition, transparency or dispute settlement; civil society, and sustainability. In the latter area, the ratification of ILO conventions is required; respect for the fundamental principles of said institution; the defense of labor rights and social protection standards; the effective implementation of environmental agreements; corporate social responsibility, eco-labeling or forest management, among other issues.
The regional director of the Economic Development Board of Singapore, Jacklyn Zhang, highlighted that the EU is the third largest trading partner for Singapore, the latter being the leader in sectors such as innovation, digital technology, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, finance or automobile, among others. Zhang also insisted that Singapore is an excellent platform for European companies to access the rest of the region, which represents an excellent opportunity for them.
Subsequently, representatives of important Spanish companies talked about their experience in the Singapore market, during a table moderated by the CEO of CEOE International, Marta Blanco.