In the 1990s, there was a flood of regional trade agreements. By 2001, more than 130 such agreements were in place (WTO2000). The European Union, the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and MERCOSUR have been particularly effective at promoting intraregional trade. This success has led other countries to explore options for such regional agreements, and in December 1999, Japan and Singapore established a Joint Study Group to examine the feasibility and desirability of establishing an FTA. After a favorable report from the Study Group, negotiations commenced in early 2001 (Joint Study Group 2000a), and the Japan-Singapore FTA came into effect in November 2002.
The main elements of the Japan-Singapore FTA involve bilateral liberalization and facilitation of trade through reduction of tariff and nontariff barriers, as well as the mutual recognition of national standards, streamlining of customs procedures, facilitation of increased services trade, and the establishment of an exemplary framework for foreign investment. This “new-age” FTA also envisioned increased collaboration on intellectual property, education and training, media and broadcasting, and tourism. This trade agreement is particularly significant, because it is viewed by many as providing a possible template for future FTAs in the region, for example the FTA between Japan and Korea (KIEP 2000).