Let me add my own welcome to Lee Chuan Teck, Permanent Secretary, Development, and his colleagues from Singapore who are with us here today. I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Singapore and to colleagues from the WTO Secretariat for their respective reports. And I would like to thank you, Chair, and Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli, Norway, as discussant, for facilitating – and indeed enriching – this Trade Policy Review.
The UK and Singapore are like-minded partners with shared deep historical ties and excellent economic relations, as demonstrated by our Free Trade Agreement, which provides a platform to continue to grow trade and investment between our two countries. Singapore was our largest trade and investment partner from ASEAN in 2020. And the UK is honoured to be amongst Singapore’s top investment destinations in Europe.
In the WTO, too, we see Singapore as one of our most like-minded partners. And I believe there is a lot that all Members can learn from the way that Singapore works in this institution – this is a Member that is always engaged and thoughtful, and brings deep expertise as well as ideas for building bridges. When I watch the Ambassador in action here I am given some extra hope about our ability to make progress on the challenges we face. And let me just echo everyone else for this morning’s announcement on the JSI in Services Domestic Regulation.
Meanwhile I’m pleased to say that the UK-Singapore relationship continues to move from strength to strength. While it has been less than a year since our FTA was signed, our bilateral relationship has continued to develop. In March this year, then UK Foreign Secretary Raab and Singapore Foreign Minister Balakrishnan agreed a joint political statement that expands cooperation between both our countries for mutual prosperity and security. And then in June, our countries announced a pioneering UK-Singapore Financial Partnership, and also began negotiations on a Digital Economy Agreement. We hope that this DEA will enable us to work together as likeminded trading partners, ready to embrace the extraordinary opportunities of the digital economy. Our joint aspiration is for the agreement to be a model for international digital trade rules, and to form a strong basis for our ongoing cooperation in the WTO and other multilateral fora in pursuing a common approach to global trade rules – for example, the DEA will strengthen and complement the e-commerce Joint Statement Initiative negotiations that are currently underway.
My government has also prioritised striking a ‘data sharing agreement’ with Singapore. The free-flow of data between our countries will underpin future innovation and the global digital economy, the use of everyday apps as well as cloud computing systems. It will allow businesses to trade, drive international investment, support law enforcement agencies tackling crime, as well as the delivery of critical public services and health and scientific research. We look forward to concluding such an arrangement with Singapore to capitalise upon and unlock the potential of our relationship on data.
The UK is also pleased to have launched negotiations to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership. We look forward to working with Singapore in their role as Chair of the Parties in 2022, to bring the UK’s accession to what we hope will be a successful conclusion.
Turning to the detail of today’s TPR, I note that we have posed a rather large number of written questions to Singapore as part of this review, reflecting our strong interest in supporting Singapore’s continued economic prosperity. I will, inspired by the style of Ambassador Hung Seng, touch on just three areas of particular interest today.
Firstly, Financial Services. Trade in financial services is a large part of the UK and Singapore’s bilateral trade, making up the second most imported and exported service between our two countries after other business services. The strength of trade in this sector is also demonstrated by the annual Joint Financial Dialogue that we hold between the UK and Singapore, which last took place just a few months ago in June this year. We support Singapore’s ongoing work to develop its digital financial services ecosystem. A number of our written questions are related to financial services, specifically in the digital space, and we thank Singapore for their responses.
We also take a keen interest in how Singapore is to approach the regulation of its State-Owned Enterprises, including how those SOEs access capital in the future. We believe that in some cases, state-owned enterprises have the potential to distort markets, trade and investment, and so considers it important that open and fair competition exists between state-owned and privately-owned businesses. We look forward to better understanding Singapore’s plans for managing the SOE sector in the future.
Finally, we welcome Singapore’s commitment to addressing climate change as a policy priority and welcome the commitment to upholding the Paris Agreement and achieving net-zero emission targets, as well as Singapore’s active participation in the work of the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Dialogue. As one of the UK’s top policy priorities and in line with our Presidency of COP26, we are committed to supporting and working with our international partners – not least Singapore – on this agenda and deliver the results that our Planet requires.
In closing, Chair, I would just like to reiterate my thanks to our colleagues from Singapore for their excellent engagement in this process and wish them a very happy Trade Policy Review.