Britain says it’s back as it signs trade deal in Singapore

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Britain said it was re-emerging as a major trade force as it signed a free trade deal with island nation Singapore on Thursday, its latest agreement globally as it prepares to end its transition out of the European Union on Dec. 31.

The deal signing between Britain’s trade minister Liz Truss and her Singaporean counterpart comes as leaders from Britain and the EU tried to seal a new trade pact and avert what some fear will be a chaotic end to the five-year Brexit process.

The agreement stuck in Singapore largely mirrors a standing agreement the former British colony – which became independent in 1965 – has with the European Union.

“Fifty five years after Singapore’s independence, the UK is re-emerging as a fully independent nation, and a major force in global trade,” Truss said ahead of the signing.

“Together, we’re paving the way for a brighter future, rich in economic potential and opportunity.”

Singapore, a wealthy city-state of 5.7 million, counts Britain as its third largest trading partner for goods and second largest for services, and its top investment destination in Europe.

Total bilateral trade between the two countries was valued at $13.5 billion in 2019, according to Singapore’s official figures.

Britain formally left the European Union at the end of January and has spent the year negotiating its future relationship with Brussels and striking trade agreements with major economies such as Japan and Canada.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Union’s chief executive have given themselves until the end of the weekend to seal a new trade pact after failing to overcome persistent rifts.

Failure to agree new rules to govern everything from trade to energy ties would snarl borders, shock financial markets and sow chaos through supply chains in a world already grappling with the economic cost of COVID-19.

($1 = 1.3367 Singapore dollars)