The European Parliament approved a free-trade agreement with Singapore as Europe continues a campaign to counter the protectionism of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The European Union assembly’s green light on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, means the market-opening accord may take effect later in 2019 following years of legal delays.
EU governments must still give their final endorsement of the deal, which requires Singapore to set up a register of European farm products protected by their specific geographical origin.
“After many twists and turns, we’re at last at the final stage,” said David Martin, a U.K. member of the EU Parliament. “While Donald Trump wants to build walls to separate nations, we are tearing them down, keeping fair and free trade alive.”
Negotiators for the EU and Singapore reached the commercial deal in December 2012. The pact then got held up by a European court case over the role of EU national parliaments in the ratification process.
Trade in goods between the EU and Singapore was worth 53.3 billion euros ($60.4 billion) in 2017, according to the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. Services commerce between both sides was valued at 44.4 billion euros in 2016, says the commission.
Under the accord, the EU will eliminate virtually all tariffs on imports from Singapore over five years and the Asian nation will end duties on the few remaining goods such as beer from the bloc that aren’t already duty-free. EU duties on petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals from Singapore are among the levies to be scrapped.
The agreement will also scale back technical barriers to trade and anchor deregulation of services markets including banking and insurance.
Meanwhile, the EU has been championing the entry into force of landmark free-trade accords it reached with Canada and Japan. The bloc has said such deals show the benefits of reducing commercial barriers worldwide and are a counterbalance to trade obstacles and threats by the Trump administration.