SINGAPORE: Singapore and New Zealand on Friday (May 17) signed a partnership agreement to bolster cooperation in trade, defence, and science, technology and innovation.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his counterpart Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is here on her first official visit, sealed the Singapore-New Zealand Enhanced Partnership through a joint declaration at the Istana.
Under this partnership, five agreements and Memoranda of Understanding were signed; these were first announced two years ago and finalised after five rounds of negotiations.
The countries deepened their trade relations by upgrading a long-standing Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Agreement between New Zealand and Singapore on a Closer Economic Partnership (ANZSCEP).
Singapore and New Zealand already share strong trade and investment ties.
In 2018, bilateral trade registered a 12.1 per cent year-on-year increase to S$4.1 billion. Singapore was New Zealand’s sixth largest investor with a stock of approximately S$3.9 billion worth of investments as of end-2017.
COSTS OF TRADE TO BE REDUCED, TRADE BARRIERS LOWERED
The changes will make the agreement - Singapore’s first and New Zealand’s second bilateral FTA - more contemporary by bringing it in line with newer FTAs to which Singapore and New Zealand are parties.
Some of the benefits the countries are expected to experience by modernising the agreement, which was signed in 2000, are the reduction of costs of trade for businesses, and the reduction of trade barriers.
The changes will mean that the pharmaceutical industries in both countries will save time and resources and ensure faster access to medicinal products for patients, and that shipments will be released at both borders faster.
Two new areas of focus under the upgraded agreement will seek to further improve bilateral relations as they aim to resolve trade-related issues more quickly, allow companies to access data freely across both countries, making it easier for them to set up an overseas presence.
The two countries, represented by Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran and New Zealand’s Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor, also enhanced collaboration on science, technology and innovation front.
Joint research programmes in Data Science and Future Foods, like alternative proteins, will be undertaken.
The countries will have closer cooperation and information sharing on cybersecurity as well.
This expands on established military ties, which sees the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) conducting regular exercises in New Zealand. Since 1997, the SAF has been conducting artillery training at the Waiouru Training Area in New Zealand.
On the creative front, the arts councils on both sides have committed to skills development opportunities for arts professionals.
To promote business, Enterprise Singapore and its New Zealand counterpart agreed to exchange market knowledge, particularly in the agri-food and technology sectors.