Marina Bay in Singapore (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – EU lawmakers approved a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore on February 13.

About two-thirds of the European Parliament's members voted in favour of the FTA, which could become effective in months, as well as a related agreement on how to settle disputes between foreign investors and states.

The pact has been nine years in the making. Negotiations ended in 2014, but as protests mounted against other trade accords, it ended up being sent to the European Court of Justice for review. The court ruling resulted in the accord being split in two: the free trade part and the separate investment-protection deal, which will still need ratification from national parliaments.

The free trade pact will follow a deal the EU launched at the start of February with Japan and will be the EU's first with a member of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The EU, which also has a deal with the Republic of Korea, remains interested in a trade deal with ASEAN as a whole, after talks were shelved in 2009. In the meantime, the bloc has concluded an agreement with Vietnam, is in negotiations with Indonesia and has held talks with three other members.

The EU is Singapore's second biggest trading partner for goods and largest for services. For the EU, Singapore ranks 14th among trading partners for goods and fourth for services. More than 10,000 EU-based companies use Singapore as a hub for Southeast Asia.

The deal will lead to the removal of EU tariffs on Singaporean goods within five years and remove Singapore's few customs duties for EU exports. It will see recognition in Singapore of EU standards and safety tests in electronics, pharmaceuticals and car parts.

It will open up Singapore service sectors such as transport and telecoms to European businesses, who will also get better access to contracts to supply the Singapore government.-VNA