Last reviewed 15 December 2020

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in Brussels attempting to keep the trade talks with the EU alive, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss was in Singapore to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the city-state.

She then moved on to Vietnam, one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, to conclude another rollover trade agreement ahead of the end of the transition period when the UK ceases to benefit from agreements concluded by the European Union.

As the UK’s largest trading partner in South-East Asia, the Singapore continuity agreement will provide a gateway to Asia for UK businesses and lock in the benefits of our existing trading relationship, worth £17.6 billion last year, Ms Truss explained.

This agreement would enable the UK to become a hub for digital trade with strong connections to Asia, she went on, cutting red tape for UK businesses and setting global standards in key areas such as cyber-security and emerging technology.

The agreement with Vietnam will also maintain an important trading relationship that has tripled between 2010 and 2019 in nominal terms to £5.7 billion. It means that 99% of tariffs will be eliminated after seven years, including on machinery and pharmaceutical products, the UK’s top exports to the South-East Asian country.

“Both these agreements are vital for the UK’s future as an independent trading nation,” Ms Truss said. “Not only do they lock in billions of pounds worth of trade, they also pave the way for new digital partnerships and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) accounted for 13% of global GDP in 2019 and that would rise to 16% if the UK were to join.

Both Vietnam and Singapore are founding members of the CPTPP and have publicly shown their support for the UK acceding to this fast-growing trade bloc. Joining would provide British businesses with an unparalleled gateway to the Pacific region, the International Trade Secretary said.