Over the past 15 years, the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) has been championing warm and robust bilateral relations between the European Union (EU) and Singapore. Our economic ties have strengthened over the years, and today, the EU is Singapore's third largest trading partner and continues to be our largest investor.
European and Singaporean companies are natural partners in accessing business opportunities in Southeast Asia. Initiatives such as the Enterprise Europe Network Singapore Centre and the EU Business Avenues to Southeast Asia facilitate business matching and foster closer collaboration between our companies. There are more than 11,000 EU companies based in Singapore, and many European businesses use Singapore as a launch pad to enter the dynamic markets of Southeast Asia.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is emerging as a region with significant economic opportunities. ASEAN represents a market of 600 million people with a rapidly rising middle class. In addition, the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 has integrated and transformed ASEAN into a competitive single market and production base. I am confident that the AEC Blueprint 2025 will continue to guide integration efforts and enhance the attractiveness of Southeast Asia as a trade and investment destination for the EU.
Trade and investment between the EU and Singapore will be further boosted with the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA). As the first agreement between the EU and an ASEAN member state, the EUSFTA will also foster and strengthen EU engagement with the region, and is an important building block to an eventual EU-ASEAN FTA. I look forward to your continued support for the expeditious ratification of the EUSFTA.
I would like to congratulate the EuroCham on its 15th anniversary in Singapore. You have contributed greatly to the deepening of bilateral relations between the EU and Singapore. I look forward to many more years of meaningful partnership and wish you every success in the year ahead.