Singapore announces plans for comprehensive free trade deal with Turkey

‘Useful’ partnership

SINGAPORE - Turkey and Singapore on Thursday announced plans for a free-trade deal as visiting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kept silent on a widening corruption scandal back home.
The Turkish leader arrived in Singapore Wednesday from Japan as part of a six-day Asian tour, as pressure mounted in Ankara over a probe that has ensnared his key allies and seen hundreds of police officers purged.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told journalists after talks with Erdogan that they agreed "to begin negotiations on a comprehensive Turkey-Singapore free trade agreement".
"We have instructed our respective economic and trade and industry ministers and they will be commencing negotiations," he said.
Erdogan, on his first official visit to Singapore, said the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state was "a very important partner in our orientation towards the Asia-Pacific region".
He said there was potential for trade between the two countries to hit $3.0-5.0 billion annually, up from $1.2 billion in 2011.
"I do believe we can forge useful alliances and partnerships with Singapore, especially when it comes to the wide-scale infrastructure and energy investments going on in Turkey," he said.
"Turkey and Singapore are both strategically located and are gateways to opportunities in their respective regions."
Singapore, heavily dependent on exports, has forged a series of free-trade agreements with major partners to ensure its economy will have long-term market access.
Both countries also sealed a memorandum of understanding on counter-terrorism cooperation on Wednesday.
The two leaders did not field questions from reporters at the Istana government complex, and were quickly ushered away after reading separate statements.
In the latest development in the political scandal implicating Erdogan and his entourage, 16 police chiefs in several major cities as well as the deputy head of national security were fired Wednesday under a decree signed by Interior Minister Efkan Ala.
The move came a day after the government fired 350 police officers in the capital Ankara -- bringing the total number sacked to over 700 since mid-December when the graft scandal broke, according to local media tallies.