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Engagement with Middle East

Engagement with the Middle East as a region took a major step forward over the past year. In December 2008, Singapore signed a Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which will strengthen economic ties and lead to increased trade between the GCC and Singapore.

Supervisory cooperation and mutual assistance with GCC authorities also received a major boost when MAS signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and the Dubai Financial Services Authority (both in October 2008), the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (March 2009) and the Qatar Central Bank (May 2009). These MoUs are intended to strengthen the supervision of cross-border operations of financial institutions, and enhance staff training and technical assistance.

Notwithstanding the global financial crisis, we have seen continued interest by Middle Eastern financial institutions to hub their regional Asia-Pacific operations in Singapore. In the past year, three GCC banks have upgraded their presence as wholesale banks so as to be better positioned to capitalise on the rebound in Asian growth when economic growth returns.