SINGAPORE: Singapore and six other countries on Wednesday (Mar 25) issued a joint ministerial statement highlighting their commitment to maintaining open supply chains amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The joint statement, which was issued by ministers from Singapore, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Myanmar and New Zealand, recognised the "mutual interest" between countries in ensuring trade lines remain open to facilitate the flow of goods and essential supplies.
It follows a similar statement by Singapore and New Zealand last week which similarly stressed both countries' commitment to maintaining open supply chains.
"We recognise that it is in our mutual interest to ensure that trade lines remain open, including via air and sea freight, to facilitate the flow of goods including essential supplies," said Wednesday's statement.
The ministers said they would "work closely" to identify and address trade disruptions and barriers which could impact the flow of necessary goods.
"We affirm the importance of refraining from the imposition of export controls or tariffs and non-tariff barriers and of removing any existing trade restrictive measures on essential goods, especially medical supplies, at this time," said the statement.
The ministers added they were committed to working with "all like-minded countries" to facilitate trade and to make sure critical infrastructure such as air and seaports remain open.
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There has been a sharp drop in air-freight capacity and some seaports around the world have also seen restrictions imposed or have had operations suspended, said a spokesperson from Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
Air-freight charges have also become volatile and there have also been disruptions to land transport due to border controls, added the spokesperson.
The ministry spokesperson called on countries to "uphold trade connectivity" amid challenging circumstances.
"This is a critical pillar in our ability to respond effectively and efficiently to the COVID-19 situation," said the spokesperson.
This is important as the production of items such as medical equipment often involve supply chains across multiple countries.
The joint announcement is intended to be a "timely and reassuring signal" internationally and domestically, said the spokesperson, adding that Singapore welcomes other "like-minded partners to join our continued efforts).
Thousands of people around the world have died from COVID-19, with more than 370,000 infected globally.