The free trade agreement between Singapore and the GCC is appraised by Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor and former Prime Minister of Singapore, in an exclusive interview with Oxford Business Group, the UK-based publishing, research and consultancy services company.
“It will facilitate the exchange of goods and services and create a wider and deeper framework over and above that of the WTO and bring about a closer trading relationship across the board,” he said.
“All GCC countries have strong currencies so it makes sense if they can agree on a uniform monetary unit. For Singapore, I do no think it will make any difference. The fact that some parts of Europe have the Euro and other parts do not, has not made any difference to trade and investment with them. The difference is only when they deal with each other. Their economies have to face more competition when they quote their prices in euros. However, the pound has not been an impediment to the UK’s trade with Europe.”
Expanding on his country’s trading relationships, he said: “We have open FTAs that others can join if they wish. It is to accelerate the progress in the WTO. We have bilaterals first, then in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation we have multilateral agreements between Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and it will keep growing.
“We also have the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) and China, ASEAN and India, ASEAN and Korea, ASEAN and Japan, as well as Australia and New Zealand working with ASEAN. They all overlap in concentric circles. Eventually some of the multilateral FTAs will merge. In the end, they may evolve into one big FTA covering the entire Asia-Pacific region.”
Mr Lee welcomed close ties between Singapore and the GCC: “The GCC offers us many opportunities for consultancies, and to transmit our various management skills in managing cities, airports and enterprises. In return they can give us reliable access to supplies of oil and gas. We can also be a launch pad for them, from which they can learn about and foray into the markets of China and South-East Asia.”