Sunday 12 January 2020

A new chapter in Singapore-New Zealand partnership

Upgraded Agreement between New Zealand and Singapore on a Closer Economic Partnership (ANZSCEP) entered into force on 1 January 2020
By Jo Tyndall, Published The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2020

In 1975, when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was asked how he saw New Zealand contributing to Singapore's future, his reply was: "More economic cooperation, more trade, more dissemination of your technological expertise."

Nearly 4½ decades later, Mr Lee's vision takes flight in an upgrade to the Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) that took effect on Jan 1.

The CEP was Singapore's first-ever bilateral free trade agreement, and New Zealand's second.

The recently upgraded CEP is at the heart of the enhanced partnership launched by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last May.

The enhanced partnership has four "pillars": trade and economic; science and innovation; defence and security; and people-to-people links. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, the pillars are interconnected and come together to form a picture of a deep and multifaceted relationship.

Our vision for the enhanced partnership is simple - it's about facilitating collaboration, innovation and the exchange of ideas through partnerships.

Trade between our two countries worth $4.52 billion was matched by $4.43 billion of two-way direct investment in the year ending December 2018. Two-way trade in goods has trebled in value since the CEP first entered into force in 2001. Many New Zealand businesses also use Singapore as a hub for their operations throughout Asia.

There's already a lot going on, but the enhanced partnership and the upgraded CEP create the potential to do even more.

That's why the upgraded CEP provides "behind-the-border" access that will help boost trade between us, through modernised rules of origin and speedier Customs clearance arrangements. That way, companies can more easily qualify for duty-free treatment and stand to benefit from streamlined administrative procedures, which will lower transaction time and costs.

Singaporeans and New Zealanders love good food, and the CEP upgrade will open the door wider for trade that feeds this mutual passion. Singapore food exporters will benefit from improved market access and expedited clearance of their exports, while consumers here can be confident that imports from New Zealand will meet stringent food safety requirements.

The CEP also includes two new chapters on e-commerce and regulatory cooperation, which recognise how trade is evolving with the rapid growth of digital technology. Ground-breaking rules will facilitate company-level cooperation in logistics and e-invoicing, while consumers can be assured their personal data will be protected through mechanisms that facilitate trusted data flows and online consumer protection.

The potential for cooperation is clear if we look at the innovative and successful Singapore-New Zealand partnerships already hiding in plain sight.

Singapore ice-cream maker Udders and New Zealand milk producer Miraka have created a range of ice cream now being served exclusively on Singapore Airlines, Scoot and Jetstar.

And that's not all. During last November's Singapore FinTech Festival, three New Zealand companies announced partnerships with Singapore firms. For example, Valocity Global - a leading New Zealand fintech company - is working with OCBC Bank to streamline the bank's digital mortgage lending and valuation process.

We also each have deep pools of talent that can work together to develop cutting-edge technologies - in fact, we have already begun joint research programmes in the areas of "future foods" and data science.

At the government level, our common values and complementary strengths mean Singapore and New Zealand are well positioned to jointly tackle many of the global challenges facing us.

The digital economy is no longer separate - increasingly, it is the economy. That's why our two governments have been working together with Chile on the pathfinder Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) - setting new standards and international approaches to support the digital economy and grow trade. The aim is for DEPA to be open for other countries (prepared to meet those same standards) to join over time.

Many of my conversations with Singaporeans begin with their personal connections to New Zealand - they went on honeymoon, as tourists, on business, to study, or as part of their national service.

Ultimately, it is these people-to-people links that make paper agreements real.

So it's fitting that the enhanced partnership, the upgraded CEP, and our other trade initiatives with Singapore, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the upcoming DEPA, will bring together our greatest assets - our people - by making two-way business, travel and study easier.

We have a Maori saying: Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi - with your basket and my basket, the people will live.

This is the collaborative spirit in which the enhanced partnership was conceived, and now the opportunities to further deepen our relationship are ripe for the taking.

Jo Tyndall is New Zealand's High Commissioner to Singapore.

New Zealand, Singapore ratify upgraded economic agreement
It will modernise rules for trading goods, hasten clearance of some exports, among other things
By Ovais Subhani, The Straits Times, 31 Dec 2019

Singaporeans can look forward to a possible drop in prices of New Zealand wines, kiwifruit and cans of abalone in the new year as trade relations with the nation continue to improve.

The two countries ratified the upgraded Agreement between New Zealand and Singapore on a Closer Economic Partnership (ANZSCEP), which will take effect tomorrow.

The pact will modernise rules for trading goods, making Customs procedures easier, in a move that will cut time and transaction costs.

It will update ways of addressing non-tariff barriers for goods such as wines, spirits, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. It will also hasten clearance of exports such as fruits and canned foods.

Singapore is one of Asia's top importers of food and beverages from New Zealand, including fruits, wines and dairy products. Abalone, a popular Chinese New Year shellfish delicacy, is imported from the cold waters of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and North America.

New Zealand exports more than US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) worth of wine a year, making wine production one of the country's largest industries.

New Zealand's Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker said the agreement would open more opportunities for companies in his country looking to do business with Singapore, its largest trading partner in South-east Asia.

"New Zealand visitors to Singapore will be able to visit the city-state visa-free for three months - up from one month under the existing agreement.

"Our companies with offices in Singapore will now be able to send employees to work there for up to eight years," Mr Parker said.

The upgraded agreement adds e-commerce and regulatory cooperation chapters to the original ANZSCEP, Singapore's first bilateral free trade agreement, which took effect on Jan 1, 2001, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said yesterday.

Negotiations for the upgraded ANZSCEP were launched in June 2017 and signed on May 17 this year during New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's first official visit to Singapore.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "The swift ratification and entry into force of the upgraded ANZSCEP signal Singapore and New Zealand's commitment to upholding an open and rules-based trading system."

The nations share strong trade and investment ties. Last year, bilateral trade registered a 12.1 per cent year-on-year increase to $4.1 billion, MTI said. New Zealand's official data shows Singapore was New Zealand's sixth-largest investor, with about $3.9 billion worth of investments as of the end of 2017.

Both countries were part of the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which gave way to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership after United States President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP.

They are also part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is under negotiation.

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chief executive Ho Meng Kit said more flexible rules of origin will benefit the electronics, chemical, pharmaceutical and processed food industries, in particular.

Companies can expect goods to be cleared and released in 24 hours on arrival.

Mr Ho added: "SBF welcomes this development as it will benefit local businesses who are already doing business in New Zealand or are thinking of expanding there."

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