Sat, Oct 20, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EU, Singapore to sign trade agreement

MULTILATERAL SUPPORT:The leaders in a statement were to declare the urgency of climate change action, and their support for the Iran agreement and free trade

Reuters, BRUSSELS

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, bottom, looks over a document at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

The EU was to sign a trade agreement with Singapore yesterday, the highlight of a two-day Asia-Europe Meeting of 51 leaders, and a signal of the EU’s push for open market accords with Asian countries.

Leaders representing 65 percent of global economic output were expected to show their climate credentials and opposition to protectionism as a counterweight to US President Donald Trump.

“There are important themes on which we must work — first, the fight against climate change; secondly, we must push for fair and free trade, which has been cast into doubt by some in the world,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

European and Asian leaders need to recognize “the serious challenge posed by climate change, its tremendous impact felt worldwide and the need for urgent and effective action,” a draft of a meeting statement said.

The provisional text also cites “collective support” at the summit for the agreement to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons.

“The summit shows that countries gathering from Europe and Asia want rules-based world trade and a commitment to multilateralism,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before the start of the second day of meetings. “That’s an important signal, because almost two-thirds of global gross domestic product is gathered here.”

The biennial meeting brings together leaders from the EU, Switzerland and Norway, and 21 Asian counterparts, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

After a dinner on Thursday, sessions on improving connectivity and the multilateral system, and a host of bilateral meetings, the events were to conclude yesterday with EU leaders and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) signing an agreement eight years in the making.

Negotiations ended in 2014, but as protests mounted against other trade accords, such as one planned with the US and one struck with Canada, the deal was sent for approval to the European Court of Justice.

The commission hopes the agreement, which still requires backing by the European Parliament, would take effect next year.

It would likely follow a larger free trade agreement the EU plans with Japan and would be the EU’s first trade agreement with a member of ASEAN.

In the meantime, EU negotiators have agreed a trade accord with Vietnam, are in negotiations with Indonesia and have held talks with three other ASEAN members.

The summit could also see Beijing facing pressure to combat what Europe says is Chinese overcapacity, notably in steel.

China, which produces and consumes half the world’s steel, has cut about 220 million tonnes of capacity since January 2016, but the EU wants China to cut more, as well as to remove subsidies — a policy that has seen it form an alliance with Tokyo and Washington.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to discuss subsidies with Li at a lunch yesterday, diplomats said.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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