Following the collapse of the World Trade Organisation's trade liberalisation talks, Singapore is more determined than ever to push ahead with free-trade agreements (FTAs). The city state has just completed the sixth round of negotiations with Canada and both sides have indicated 'substantial progress', in particular on market access in goods, financial services and government procurement. The next meeting is planned on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Bangkok this month. Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said: 'We are aiming to conclude the Canada-Singapore FTA during the course of the year.' Singapore has signed FTAs with New Zealand, Japan, the European Free Trade Association, Australia and, most recently, the United States. Minister for Trade and Industry George Yeo recently pointed out that the FTAs had given Singaporean companies better access to overseas markets. 'The underlying driver [behind Singapore's push for FTAs] is the maturing economy, slowing rates of growth and competition from China and other emerging economies. FTAs are viewed as devices to improve access to foreign markets for Singapore-based firms,' said Kulwant Singh, associate professor of business policy at National University of Singapore's business school. 'This will, it is believed, improve the attractiveness of products and services, and the competitiveness of these firms. In turn, this should boost the growth and profitability of domestic firms, attract new investments and improve the overall growth and competitiveness of the Singapore economy.' Economists said FTAs would also open up competition. Professor Singh believed Singapore firms were often 'too small, not competitive enough', and did not match global standards. 'The US FTA will challenge all of those weaknesses with firms facing much more competition,' he said. 'Many Singapore firms that have succeeded have done so within an environment where competition is not great. When you have a free-trade agreement, you are increasing competition, and while this may be good for the economy in the long run, in the short run many firms may not be able to meet the challenges.' With the collapse of the talks in Cancun, Mexico, the Doha round was likely to be delayed by at least two years, probably more, Mr Yeo said. Nevertheless, he said Singapore believed there was scope for the Doha development agenda to be completed. 'With WTO members meeting again in December, Singapore believes that it is important for all members, both developed and developing, to muster the political will to inject fresh momentum into the talks,' a spokeswoman for the trade ministry said. 'Singapore's trade priorities are to pursue trade liberalisation, and predictable and orderly rules of trade multilaterally, regionally and bilaterally. This will ensure Singapore remains a globalised economy, with strong linkages to all its key trading partners.' Singapore is negotiating FTAs with Chile and Jordan, as well as a comprehensive economic co-operation agreement with India.