The European Union and Singapore signed a landmark trade deal on Friday on the sidelines of a Europe-Asia summit that Brussels hopes can be a rebuke to protectionism in Washington.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong signed the accord in Brussels with European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency.
Hailing the Singapore agreement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “we can make it clear that the world is about creating win-win situations.”
These deals “make it clear that what benefits one, can also benefit the other,” she added as she arrived for an EU-Asia summit where the deal was signed, in a tacit criticism of US President Donald Trump.
The text still needs to be validated by the European Parliament before it enters into force in 2019.
The leaders also signed off the EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement, the more controversial aspect of the package as it sets up a special court to decide business conflicts.
After a succesful battle spearheaded by environmental activists in Europe, this aspect of the deal must now face ratification by the EU’s 28 member states, a process that could take months or years.
“It is a very important stepping stone, this is the most ambitious agreement we have ever made with a developing country so it sets the standard for whatever we do in the region,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Wednesday.
“What we have with Singapore is paving the way for a future region-to-region agreement,” Malmstrom added.
The deal with Singapore came after the EU suspended effort to strike a bloc deal with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2009 amid widespread disagreements, including European concerns over Myanmar’s human rights record.