UK Reaches Continuity Trade Deals With Singapore and Vietnam

UK Reaches Continuity Trade Deals With Singapore and Vietnam
Britain's International Trade Secretary Liz Truss reacts as she arrives in Downing Street in London on Oct. 19, 2020. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK government has announced new continuity trade deals with Singapore and Vietnam.

“Both these agreements are vital for the UK’s future as an independent trading nation,” International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said.

“Not only do they lock in billions of pounds worth of trade, they also pave the way for new digital partnerships and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Singapore is the UK’s largest trading partner in South-East Asia. The new deal covers more than $22 billion (£17.6 billion) of bilateral trade in goods and services, and is largely based on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. The two parties have committed to “maintain the same timeline for tariff reductions as compared to the EU-Singapore FTA,” the governments said in a joint statement.

Negotiations on a UK–Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) will also be commenced to enhance digital trades and help develop global standards for effective regulation in key areas such as cybersecurity and emerging technology. Seventy percent of UK services exports were delivered remotely to Singapore last year, worth £3.2 billion.

“The agreement is also accompanied by a number of MoUs on digital economy topics, such as data innovation, AI, trade facilitation, and digital identity. Given the fast-moving nature of technology, these additional MoUs provide a flexible and adaptive framework,” Antony Walker, Deputy CEO at techUK, said.

The UK is also set to conclude a separate trade agreement with Vietnam on Friday to cover £5.7 billion of trade. Ninety-nine percent of tariffs will be eliminated after seven years, including on machinery and pharmaceutical products, the UK’s top exports to Vietnam, according to the ministry.

The UK government has been seeking to replicate existing EU trade deals to ensure continuity of trading arrangements for UK businesses when the EU transition period ends.

“Today’s deal with Singapore brings us closer to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Truss said on Twitter.

CPTPP, formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade agreement between Canada and a number of Asia-Pacific countries.

The UK was automatically part of around 40 trade deals with over 70 countries as part of the EU, with these deals ceasing on Dec. 31. The UK has currently agreed to trade deals with 57 countries, accounting for £193 billion of UK bilateral trade.

The government confirmed in an earlier statement that they aim to secure free trade agreements with countries that cover 80 percent of UK trade within three years.