Allow me to welcome Lee Chuan Teck, Permanent Secretary for Development, and his colleagues from Singapore who are with us today. I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Singapore and colleagues in the WTO Secretariat for their respective reports. And I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli, Norway, as discussant, for facilitating – and indeed enriching – this Trade Policy Review.
The UK and Singapore are like-minded partners who share deep historical ties and excellent economic relations, as evidenced by our Free Trade Agreement, which provides a platform to continue to expand trade and investment. between our two countries. Singapore was our largest ASEAN trading and investment partner in 2020. And the UK is honored to be one of Singapore’s top investment destinations in Europe.
In the WTO, too, we see Singapore as one of our like-minded partners. And I think all Members can learn a lot from the way Singapore works in this institution – it is a Member who is always engaged and thoughtful, and who brings in-depth expertise as well as ideas to build bridges. When I watch the Ambassador in action here, I receive additional hope as to our ability to move forward on the challenges we face. And let me echo everyone for this morning’s announcement on JSI in domestic regulation of services.
In the meantime, I am happy to say that the UK-Singapore relationship continues to grow stronger. Even though it has been less than a year since our FTA was signed, our bilateral relations have continued to develop. In March of this year, British Foreign Minister Raab and Singaporean Foreign Minister Balakrishnan agreed to a joint political declaration that expands cooperation between our two countries for mutual prosperity and security. And then, in June, our countries announced a pioneering financial partnership between the UK and Singapore and also began negotiations on a digital economy deal. We hope that this DEA will allow us to work together as like-minded business partners, ready to seize the extraordinary opportunities of the digital economy. Our common aspiration is that the agreement is a model for the rules of international digital trade and that it provides a solid basis for our continued cooperation in the WTO and other multilateral forums in the pursuit of a common approach. global trade rules – for example, the DEA to strengthen and complement the Joint Declaration Initiative negotiations on e-commerce that are currently underway.
My government has also prioritized the conclusion of a “data sharing agreement” with Singapore. The free flow of data between our countries will support future innovation and the global digital economy, the use of everyday applications as well as cloud computing systems. It will enable businesses to trade, stimulate international investment, support law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime, as well as the delivery of essential public services and scientific and health research. We look forward to entering into such an agreement with Singapore to capitalize and unlock the potential of our data relationship.
The UK is also pleased to have launched negotiations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. We look forward to working with Singapore in their role as chairman of the parties in 2022, to lead the UK accession to what we hope will be a successful conclusion.
Regarding the details of today’s Trade Policy Review, I note that we have posed quite a number of written questions to Singapore as part of this review, reflecting our keen interest in supporting economic prosperity. continues from Singapore. I will, inspired by the style of Ambassador Hung Seng, address only three areas of particular interest today.
First, financial services. Trade in financial services accounts for a large part of the UK’s and Singapore’s bilateral trade, being 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 our annual Joint Financial Dialogue between the UK and Singapore, which took place just a few months ago in June of this year. We support Singapore’s ongoing work to develop its digital financial services ecosystem. A number of our written questions relate to financial services, particularly in the digital space, and we thank Singapore for its responses.
We also take a close look at how Singapore will approach the regulation of its SOEs, including how these SOEs will access capital in the future. We believe that in some cases state-owned enterprises have the potential to distort markets, trade and investment, and therefore consider it important that open and fair competition exists between public and private enterprises. We look forward to better understanding Singapore’s plans to manage the SOE sector in the future.
Finally, we welcome Singapore’s commitment to make climate change a political priority and welcome its commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement and achieve the net zero emissions targets, as well as Singapore’s active participation in the work of the Structured Dialogue. on trade and environmental sustainability. As one of the UK’s top political priorities and in line with our presidency of COP26, we are committed to supporting and working with our international partners – especially Singapore – on this agenda and delivering the results our planet has requires.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would just like to reiterate my thanks to our colleagues in Singapore for their excellent engagement in this process and to wish them a very good Trade Policy Review.