EU-Singapore trade deal finally starts — but Singapore already agreed with a UK deal last year

Graham Charles Lear
3 min readNov 23, 2019



After 10 years, the EU manages a trade deal for just 1.6% of EU27 goods exports

Before Europhile fanatics start crowing, however, there is something they should know.

The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, signed the EU-Singapore deal at an EU-Asia summit in Brussels in April 2018. Somewhat embarrassingly for his hosts, he said that his country is ready to strike an identical trade deal with the United Kingdom, which would come into effect at the end of any Brexit transition period.

Here is what the Singaporean PM told the BBC in April 2018

We are prepared to transfer it over. If the UK were in the EU, it would apply to you straight away. If you are not and you do not mind, it continues to apply to you from Singapore’s point of view.

“We are happy to have it apply to us, between us and you.

“We can do what the trade people call in the jargon a short-form agreement, which is basically to continue to do with Britain what we have agreed to do with the EU as if you were still inside it.

“We hope we will be able to continue arrangements with Britain, whether or not it is inside the EU and then we have time to work some better long-term arrangements over time.”

-Lee Hsien Loong, PM of Singapore, BBC interview, 19 Oct 2018

According to the EU’s announcements yesterday, we can summarise as follows:
(We have used the latest year for which the EU gave figures yesterday: 2017)

  • The EU28 exported €33 billion of goods to Singapore
  • But €5.5 billion of this came from the UK
  • The EU27, therefore, exported just €27.5 billion to Singapore
  • This compares with worldwide exports from the EU27 of €1,674 billion in that year
  • Goods exports to Singapore, therefore, represent just 1.6% of total EU27 goods exports

And of course much of that traffic use Singapore as the port of destination but goods then go on to other ASEAN countries.

Singapore’s is a growing and dynamic economy. As a long-standing member of the Commonwealth, it has close ties to the UK.

It is therefore not surprising that its government was keen to roll over its trade deal with the EU to the UK, immediately after the end of any Transition Period.

If the UK were to leave the EU with a clean break on 31 January, Singapore would be happy to apply the new trade deal from 01 February.

It has taken the EU 10 years to agree and implement a trade deal with Singapore. Much too little. Much too late.

[ Sources: EU Commission | ONS | The Straits Times (Singapore) | Eurostat (official EU statistics agency) | Dept for International Trade | Dept of Statistics Singapore ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.