The U.K. has signed a free trade deal with Singapore covering trade worth 17.6 billion pounds ($23.4 billion), the latest in a series of trade pacts that Britain is seeking to secure around the world post-Brexit.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who was in Singapore for the ceremony, said on December 10 the deal was the second-biggest that Britain has signed in the Asia-Pacific region.
The agreement came as British and European Union officials make a final push to break a deadlock over the U.K.’s future trade relationship with the bloc.
Britain left the EU on January 31, but remains in its economic structures until a transition period ends on December 31. The Singapore deal largely mirrors one that the Asian city-state already has with the EU, and effectively allows trade to continue as before after January 1.
Truss said the pact with Singapore “secures certainty” for businesses and is “further proof we can succeed as an independent trading nation.”
Singapore is Britain’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia. Truss is also expected to sign a similar deal with Vietnam to ensure trade continues on the same terms in the new year.
For its part, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MIT) said in a statement that the deal “will provide Singapore and UK companies with certainty and clarity in trading arrangements between both countries.”
Officials said the two deals bring Britain a step closer to joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a growing regional trade bloc. Joining that agreement would “provide British businesses with an unparalleled gateway to the Pacific region,” Truss said.
Truss and her Singaporean counterpart, Chan Chun Sing, also said they plan to start talks for a “Digital Economy Agreement,” which aims to boost British digital trade and partnerships with Asia. According to Singapore’s MIT, the eventual digital accord will “will serve as a pathfinder for modern rules on digital trade and financial services between Europe and Southeast Asia.”
Singapore and the U.K. also plan to launch talks on an investor protection agreement within two years, and hope to conclude that pact within four years.
“This is an important part of our vision for a Global Britain that sits at the center of a network of deals with dynamic nations across Asia Pacific and the Americas as a global hub for services and technology trade,” Truss said in a statement.
According to Chan, “The signing of the UK-Singapore FTA strengthens and deepens the relationship between Singapore and the U.K. The agreement will provide continuity and certainty for businesses in both countries and send a strong signal of the U.K.’s commitment to deepen its engagement of the region.”
By the Associated Press in London, U.K. with additional reporting by The Diplomat.