EU lawmakers approve free trade deal with Singapore

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European lawmakers approved a free trade deal between the EU and Singapore in Strasburg on Wednesday.

The European Parliament approved the deal in several votes with a large majority. The deal, which now needs the final approval from the member states, could come into force before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019.

The agreement is part of the 28-nation bloc's push for more open markets in Asia amid rising trade tensions with the US. Last year, Washington raised tariffs on European steel and aluminum and threatens to do the same on cars and auto parts.

The EU's free trade agreement with Japan, another Asian economic powerhouse, came into force this month. A deal with Vietnam is expected to be signed soon.

Read more: EU-Japan free trade agreement defies protectionism

The free trade deal — the EU's first with a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) — will remove nearly all barriers to trade within five years. The EU hopes to use the agreement, which was signed in October last year, as a blueprint for further deals in southeast Asia.

Major trading partner

Singapore is the EU's largest trading partner among ASEAN countries with a total bilateral trade in goods of €53.3 billion ($60.3 billion) in 2017 and in services of €44.4 billion in 2016.

More than 10,000 EU companies have a presence in Singapore, often using the city state to serve the whole Pacific region.

Singapore is also the most preferred destination in Asia for European investment with bilateral investment between the two sides topping €256 billion in 2016.

ap/jm (AP, dpa)

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