Business

S'pore deal with post-Brexit Britain can show the way

Trade pact between two countries could be less complex than other FTAs

Singapore's plan to draw up a trade deal with post-Brexit Britain likely has many in the business community heaving a sigh of relief.

The assurance came from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who told the BBC that Singapore would sign a deal with Britain after it exits the European Union.

Bilateral trade between Singapore and Britain is quite modest, coming in at $11.5 billion last year, just 1.36 per cent of Singapore's total international trade.

However, Britain has long been a gateway to Europe for many Singapore companies and London is still the first port of call for businesses looking to venture onto the continent.

The full impact of Brexit is still unclear at this stage, but having a trade deal with Britain is a good sign that Singapore businesses with operations there will likely be able to proceed as per normal, once Britain is out of the EU.

The same goes for the more than 4,000 British companies with operations here.

COLLABORATION

Moreover, it looks like Britain is keen to collaborate even more closely with Singapore.

British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman said last month that Britain is ready to explore deeper collaboration in areas such as data science, big data and healthcare.

Brexit will take several years to work out and conclude, and so any free-trade agreement (FTA) with Britain will also take some years to come to fruition.

But as it involves just two parties, it could very well turn out to be a less complex and speedier process than some other FTAs Singapore has been involved in.

One of them, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is in limbo after the US President Donald Trump ended his country's participation, leaving the 11 other partners considering if they can or should keep the deal alive.

Brexit may have resulted partly from anti-globalisation sentiment, but the expression of intent from both Britain and Singapore for a trade deal is a glimmer of hope that international links will not always be scuppered so easily.

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