Upgraded Closer Economic Partnership with Singapore effective tomorrow

Upgraded Closer Economic Partnership with Singapore effective tomorrow

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Wellington, January 31, 2019

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discussing the Upgraded CEP Agreement with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on November 14, 2018 (Facebook)

New Zealanders will start to see the benefits of the upgraded Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) with Singapore from January 1, 2020, when the agreement comes into force.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker said that the Agreement would open more opportunities for New Zealand companies looking to do business with our largest trading partner in South East Asia.

Benefits of trade

“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,” he said.

The CEP also streamlines customs clearance for exports to Singapore and includes new arrangements which will simplify cross border requirements for primary products.

Mr Parker said that New Zealand is pursuing a trade agenda that ensures the benefits of trade are shared by all our people and contributes to the international rules and systems that have served us well over the past twenty-five years.

“At a time when the rules-based system is facing challenges, our partnership with Singapore and our upgraded FTA is more important than ever,” Mr Parker said.

About the Partnership

According to the Foreign and Trade Ministry website, CEP with Singapore was one of the most swiftly concluded FTAs by New Zealand, taking less than a year to complete negotiations.

Signed in 2000, the CEP entered into force in 2001.

Singapore is now New Zealand’s largest trading partner in the South East Asia region, with $5.2 billion of two-way trade and $5.1 billion of two-way direct investment as at the end of December 2018.

“Our trade policy and practice has evolved considerably since the CEP was first negotiated. As two open and  modern economies with considerable experience in FTAs, New Zealand and Singapore sought to upgrade the existing agreement so that it could serve as a benchmark and template for other negotiations. Upgrade negotiations were completed in November 2018 and signed by Ministers in May 2019,” the website said.

Other Treaties 

New Zealand and Singapore are also parties to the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (P4); ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA); and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

“Given the high-quality market access outcomes New Zealand has already secured for our exporters in other trade agreements with Singapore, the key benefit of the upgrade to the CEP is strategic,” the Ministry website said.

Singapore and New Zealand are small, like-minded advanced economies which rely on the International Rules based system. The upgrade reinforces the role both countries play as leaders in trade and economic integration, serving as a model for the wider Asia-Pacific region in the years to come. 

Binding and non-binding commitments

The CEP upgrade consists of a negotiated package of binding and non-binding commitments between New Zealand and Singapore: (a) a legally binding Protocol to Amend the Agreement between New Zealand and Singapore on Closer Economic Partnership (the Protocol) (b) a legally binding Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment between the Government of New Zealand and the Government of the Republic of Singapore (the MRA) (c) a non-legally binding side-letter on professional qualification recognition; and (d) a non-legally binding side-letter confirming the relationship between the Protocol and New Zealand’s existing free trade agreements with Singapore.

The upgrade constitutes the first wide-ranging upgrade of a FTA to which New Zealand is party to. Taken as a whole, the CEP upgrade will deliver (a) improved market access for New Zealanders into Singapore through enhanced visa access for service suppliers and intra-corporate transferees (b) modernised rules covering trade in goods (including customs procedures and trade facilitation, and rules of origin) (c) modern frameworks to address non-tariff barriers; including sector-specific frameworks for wine and distilled spirits, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and implementing arrangements relating to aspects of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Chapter of the CEP (d) a new framework to enable regulatory cooperation (e) updated competition and consumer protection rules (f) targeted improvements to investment provisions; and (g) new rules covering electronic commerce.

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