The protocol on upgrading the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was inked on Nov 12 by China International Trade Representative and Vice-Minister of Commerce Fu Ziying and Singaporean Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, representing the two governments, and witnessed by Premier Li Keqiang and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The fresh China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) is poised to deepen bilateral trade and investment, as well as relax control over Singaporean firms’ market access to Chinese market. The upgraded version is also projected to continuously enhance the well-being of enterprises and people in the two countries and press ahead with the building of an open world economy.
It revised the previous FTA by upgrading the rules of origin, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade remedy, trade in services, investment, and economic cooperation. Three cooperation fields were added in the meantime, including e-commerce, competition policy and environment.
For the first time, China and Singapore have incorporated the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into the CSFTA, acknowledging its pivotal role in spurring all-round bilateral collaboration, win-win deals, common prosperity, and regional development.
In the investment field, both countries agreed to give investors high-level protection, grant each other Post-establishment National Treatment (PENT) and Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) status, and use a comprehensive dispute settlement mechanism between investors and host countries.
In terms of the movement of natural persons, the Singaporean government pledged to promote transparency in vetting applications for work permits and guaranteed a reply in three weeks for most Chinese applicants.
China and Singapore will showcase higher-level trade facilitation concerning customs procedures and rules of origin, in a bid to reduce trade costs. Electronically networked data for rules of origin will also be built for efficiency and paperless offices.
A newly added e-commerce chapter of the upgraded CSFTA reflects, to some extent, both countries’ intention to make inroads into the other side’s promising market.
The protocol shall kick in on the first day of the second month after both parties notify the completion of domestic procedures in writing, or on any date agreed by both.
The CSFTA was initially signed in October 2008 and became effective on Jan 1, 2009.