New Zealand, Singapore ratify upgraded economic agreement

It will modernise rules for trading goods, hasten clearance of some exports, among other things

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."