The European Union agreed to a free trade accord with Singapore Sunday, the latest in a series of bilateral deals that it hopes will ease a deepening sovereign debt crisis and inject growth into stagnating economies.
The deal, reached after 33 months of negotiations, is expected to pry open the Asian city state’s financial services and public procurement markets and boost European auto exports.
Singapore, where the U.S. enjoys preferential access, is the EU’s 13th largest commercial partner, with two-way trade in goods worth nearly $61 billion in 2011.
“Singapore is a dynamic market for EU companies and is a vital hub for doing business across Southeast Asia,” said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. “This agreement is key to unlocking the gateway to the region and can be a catalyst for growth for EU exporters.”
This is the EU’s second free trade deal with an Asian nation; an accord with South Korea came into effect in 2011.
The EU is currently negotiating free trade pacts with Vietnam and Malaysia and intends eventually to strike a regional accord with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Nations.
The EU last week won approval from the European Parliament for a free trade accord with six Central American states and Colombia and Peru, and it hopes to close on a similar pact with Canada by the end of the year.