Britain has signed a free trade agreement with Singapore -- it's largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, the British Department for International Trade (DIT) said Thursday, Trend reports citing Xinhua.
The agreement "will provide a gateway to Asia for UK businesses and lock in the benefits of our existing trading relationship," said the DIT in a statement.
It is the latest step in Britain's strategy to "create a network of trade agreements with dynamic economies far beyond Europe," said the DIT.
In October, Britain signed an economic partnership agreement with Japan, its first major trade deal as an independent trading nation after Brexit.
"Agreements bring the UK a step closer to joining the (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for) Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a high-standards agreement of 11 Pacific nations," said the DIT.
Effective since Dec. 30, 2018, the CPTPP is a trade pact among 11 countries, including Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Chile, and Mexico, whose aggregate gross domestic product accounts for 13 percent of the world economy.
The announcement came when trade negotiations between Britain and the European Union (EU) are at a crucial stage as time is running out for both sides to secure a deal before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.
To bridge gaps between the two sides on such outstanding issues as level playing field, governance and fisheries, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have had phone conversations several times instead of face-to-face discussions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To bring life back to normal, countries including Germany, China, Russia, and the United States are racing against time to find a vaccine.
Failure to reach a free trade agreement means bilateral trade will fall back on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules in 2021.