Asst Prof Mahdev Mohan: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) if he can provide an update on efforts since May 2017 to ensure that the Singapore-European Union Free Trade Agreement comes in force in its concluded or an alternative form.
Oral reply (to be attributed to Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon)
- Mr Speaker, on 16 May 2017, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued its legal Opinion of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) as a “mixed agreement”. Specifically, the ECJ ruled that all provisions in the EUSFTA fall under the exclusive competence of the EU with specific exceptions. These exceptions are provisions relating to (i) non-direct foreign investment such as portfolio investments; and (ii) the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and States. Both these provisions fall under the shared competence of the EU and its Member States.
- Since the release of the ECJ Opinion, the EU has been discussing internally on the modality for negotiating and ratifying FTAs, including the EUSFTA. This includes the possibility of having the FTA cover the provisions that belong to the EU’s exclusive competence, while provisions that are of shared competence are incorporated into a separate Bilateral Investment Agreement.
- This would allow for a more targeted ratification process. The FTA would then come into force after the approval of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. The separate Bilateral Investment Agreement, which is of “shared competence”, would have to go through the process of obtaining approval at the Council, the European Parliament, as well as the 38 national and regional parliaments of all EU Member States.
- The Commission is in the process of consulting internally with Member States and other stakeholders on the best way to take the EUSFTA forward. Singapore has conveyed to the EU that our priority remains to ensure an expeditious ratification of the EUSFTA. We will continue to work closely with the Commission to have the FTA ratified in order for our businesses to benefit from the agreement as soon as possible.