15 July 2022, EU: Opening keynote speech by Mr Janusz Wojciechowski at EU-Singapore Agri-Food Business Forum
“Check against delivery”
Honourable guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this important event.
It is great to see EU Business Delegates, together with business leaders from Singapore.
I know that among you are importers, retailers, and distributors; some EU companies operating in Singapore, and others looking to begin soon.
I am also very happy to see representatives of EU Member States, chambers of commerce, and media.
You are all very welcome.
Agri-food trade situation
This event comes at a very timely moment.
At the beginning of the year, as we looked towards our recovery from the pandemic, few could have foreseen what awaited on our horizon.
The unprovoked and illegal aggression of Russia has not only triggered a humanitarian crisis for Ukraine. It has also threatened a food security crisis worldwide, by disrupting supplies and destabilising global food markets.
Honourable guests, ladies and gentlemen, in the face of crisis and conflict, now is the time to co-operate.
Now is the time to re-establish global connectivity, to re-inforce relationships, and to re-build our economies.
In this context, let me welcome the outcome of the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, which recently concluded in Geneva..
Addressing food security concerns was a key priority for the European Union at this conference, and I believe made good progress with the adoption of a food security declaration and a firm decision in support of the World Food Programme.
These outcomes demonstrate that the WTO can deliver a timely response to the current challenges.
This sends a strong message to the world.
We must now build positively on these achievements, as we prepare for the next Ministerial Conference.
Mission to Singapore
And as we work towards building global food security, we must remember the importance of maintaining open, transparent and predictable agricultural markets and facilitate international trade.
I am glad to know that this is a common priority shared by Singapore.
A key objective of my mission is to further strengthen business partnerships between EU and Singapore agri-food companies.
Singapore is an extremely important partner for our agri-food sector in the European Union.
The pillar of our partnership is the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in November 2021.
The Agreement advances new opportunities for trade facilitation and business partnerships between EU and Singapore agri-food companies.
Its provides for zero tariff on all EU agri-food products exported to Singapore.
This is essential, as we export almost €2 billion of high quality products annually, representing 7.2% of our total trade in goods with Singapore.
I believe there is much more room, and much more demand, for the high quality, safety, and authenticity of our EU agri-food products.
At a time when Singapore is looking to diversify its import sources, the European Union has the capacity and willingness to respond to that demand.
We need to build on these opportunities and reinforce our cooperationin the agri-food sector.
We must also reinforce good co-operation in reaching our sustainability goals.
It is clear that food sustainability is fundamental for long-term food security.
To achieve sustainable food security, we need to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable and more resilient food systems.
In Europe, we are responding to that challenge through the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, as part of the European Green Deal.
And I welcome Singapore’s Green Plan 2030, which has set ambitious and concrete targets over the next 10 years, strengthening your commitments under the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Paris Agreement.
The climate crisis, as well as the current geo-political crisis, have shown us that we can no longer afford to be short-sighted in our actions, our decisions, and our partnerships.
I hope that this is reflected in discussions at today’s Forum.
During the forum, I hope that EU producers will illustrate their success stories, of how quality EU products bring added value to importers, retailers and distributors in Singapore.
In particular, there is much potential for geographical indications (GIs), as well as organic and sustainable produce.
I also hope that our business partners from Singapore will share the significance of their market as a gateway for agri-food trade in the ASEAN region.
In the European Union, we can learn from you about how to access and operate on both the local market and throughout the broader region, and about the regulatory & food safety requirements that we must meet.
I am confident that this event will make a strong contribution to the success of our mission and help to build a stronger partnership between the European Union and Singapore.
In the coming years, I believe that our partnership will become ever more important.
As we look to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, it is clear that we must grow closer, and work together, to find solutions.
Because, by working together, we can divide our challenges and multiply our solutions.
In this spirit, I wish you every success in your engagements today.