That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, on the one hand, and the Republic of Singapore on the other, signed in Brussels, Belgium on 19th October, 2018, a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 10th June, 2021.
I am pleased to introduce this motion on the approval of the EU-Singapore Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
Deepening our presence in the Asia Pacific region is a key strategic goal for the Government, as outlined in Ireland's dedicated Asia Pacific strategy to 2025. EU-Singapore relations go back several decades and are built on a long history of friendship and close historical, political and economic ties. This partnership and co-operation agreement, PCA, will strengthen the EU's partnership with Singapore, providing the basis for more effective bilateral engagement by strengthening political dialogue and enhancing co-operation across a broad range of areas, of both agreement and friction. It should be noted that the PCA is a separate agreement to the EU-Singapore free trade agreement, FTA, and the EU-Singapore investment protection agreement, IPA. I ask Deputies to bear this in mind in their consideration of this motion. I will now take some time to outline the nature of our partnership with Singapore before discussing the PCA and its benefits in greater detail.
As small, outwardly focused countries with strong commitments to multilateralism and the rule of law, Ireland and Singapore are natural partners. The Ireland-Singapore trading relationship is particularly strong. Having successfully positioned itself as the gateway to south-east Asia and an attractive location for foreign direct investment, FDI, in the region, Singapore has an exceptionally high level of human development and is considered one of the Asian tiger economies. As a founder member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, Singapore has advanced the cause of regional multilateralism in south-east Asia.
Singapore's relationship with the EU goes back decades and the EU views the city state as central to its engagement in south-east Asia. This partnership, built on shared values and a commitment to a peaceful and prosperous world, is one that both sides have sought to strengthen in recent years. In the context of increasing great power competition and tension, the EU is appreciative of Singapore's contribution to regional and global security. Singapore and the EU are like-minded on issues such as supporting freedom of navigation and overflights in the South China Sea, through which one third of global shipping passes. Singapore is a key partner in responding to humanitarian disasters in south-east Asia and shares many of the EU's approaches to issues such as the humanitarian and political crisis in Myanmar.
Ireland and Singapore have a long history of diplomatic relations and co-operation dating back to 1974. Trade and economics also feature prominently. The importance of the Asia Pacific region to Ireland is evidenced by the Government's Asia Pacific strategy to 2025 which sets out the framework for growing our political, economic and people-to-people relationships in the region. The Asia Pacific region is home to more than 4 billion people and is the primary engine of the global economy, contributing more than 60% of global growth. Between 2008 and 2018, Ireland's two-way trade with the Asia Pacific region more than doubled from €23 billion to €56 billion and despite the impact of Covid, we are on course to increase this to more than €100 billion by 2025.
Singapore is an important economic partner and priority market for Ireland in Asia, with just under €1 billion in two-way merchandise trade last year, a figure which increased in comparison with 2019 despite the impact of Covid. Ireland has continued to maintain a trade surplus with Singapore. The latest figures on trade in services show exports to Singapore in the region of €2.7 billion which is more than our exports of services to Canada and only marginally less than our export of services to the whole of the African continent.
Singapore is also an important base for Irish companies and our State agencies operating in this dynamic and opportunity filled region. Currently 120 Enterprise Ireland client companies have operations in Singapore, mainly in sectors such as ICT, financial services, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, and aviation. Our embassy in Singapore operates alongside Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. With this strong team Ireland presence, I am optimistic we will see continued growth in our relationship in the coming period. Finally, it is worth noting that approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Irish people are resident in Singapore.
The PCA is a mixed-competence agreement which was negotiated alongside the EU-Singapore FTA and IPA. The FTA entered into force in November 2019 following its endorsement by member states. The IPA will enter into force following ratification by each EU member state according to its own procedures. As such, the Dáil will have an opportunity to discuss all aspects of the IPA when it is brought for consideration in due course.
The PCA is a separate agreement which covers a much broader range of issues in the EU's relationship with Singapore. The PCA will be an important bilateral framework agreement between the EU and Singapore. The agreement builds on the extensive political, economic and sectoral co-operation between the EU and Singapore and will serve as a platform for closer co-operation and dialogue across a broad range of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues.
The PCA will provide a legal foundation for improving bilateral co-operation as well as co-operation in international and regional organisations and forums. It will help to promote shared values and principles, particularly democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also encompasses co-operation in areas such as health, climate change, energy, the environment, natural resources, tax, education, culture, labour, employment, social affairs, science, technology and transport. The agreement further addresses legal co-operation, money laundering, terrorist financing, security, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, organised crime and corruption. The agreement establishes a joint committee with the objective of co-ordinating the overall partnership built upon this agreement. The joint committee may set up specialised sub-committees to provide dedicated space for co-operation in some of these areas.
The PCA will allow more effective bilateral engagement with Singapore on issues of human rights. Although Singapore is, as outlined already, a natural partner of both Ireland and the EU, there are certainly areas of divergence between us in respect of human rights. Specific concern exists with regard to the death penalty, judicial corporal punishment, freedom of speech and public assembly, as well as the rights and protections afforded to the LGBTI+ community, among others. Ireland and the EU have never shied away from having difficult discussions with Singapore on issues of tension and the closer structured engagement that the PCA will precipitate will serve to create a platform for progressing discussions on human rights. Furthermore, this agreement, similar to those concluded by the EU with other partner countries, contains binding political clauses based on the shared values of both parties. As such, the Government warmly welcomes the conclusion of the PCA and endorses its approval by Dáil Éireann.