17 April 2020
On 15 April 2020, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (“MTI”) issued a press release reporting that the Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, and New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth, David Parker, had jointly announced the launch of a “Declaration on Trade in Essential Goods for Combating the Covid-19 Pandemic” (“Declaration”). Singapore is New Zealand’s 8th largest trading partner. Between 2017 and 2018, bilateral trade between both countries increased by 12.1% to S$4.1 billion.
The Declaration, which was issued on 15 April 2020, builds on the Joint Ministerial Statement on Supply Chain Connectivity which was originally issued by New Zealand and Singapore in March 2020. Seven other countries - Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Uruguay - have since pledged their commitment to the Joint Ministerial Statement to ensure supply chain connectivity amid the Covid-19 situation.
The Declaration provides, among other things, for the following:
- Tariff elimination and implementation: Each participant will eliminate all customs duties and all other duties and charges of any kind, within the meaning of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (“GATT 1994”), with respect to all products listed in Annex I to the Declaration (“Annex I”). Annex I covers products such as certain food preparations, antibiotics and medicaments.
- Export restrictions: The participants will not apply export prohibitions or restrictions, within the meaning of the GATT 1994, with respect to all products listed in Annex I.
- Non-tariff barriers: The participants will intensify consultations with a view to removing non-tariff barriers on products listed Annex I and Annex II to the Declaration (“Annex II”). Annex II covers products such as certain live animals, fruits and vegetables.
- Facilitation of trade in essential goods: The participants will, consistent with their obligations under the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement, expedite and facilitate the flow and transit of all products listed in Annex I and Annex II through their respective sea and air ports.
- Additional products: Participants will endeavour to not apply export prohibitions or restrictions with respect to the products listed in Annex II, unless they fall within exceptions set out in the GATT 1994.
Through this joint undertaking not to impose tariffs and other trade barriers including export restrictions, Singapore and New Zealand hope the Declaration will have a positive demonstrative effect and boost efforts to ensure that trade continues to flow unimpeded for a list of essential supplies.
The Declaration notes that Singapore and New Zealand enjoy longstanding and warm relations. The conclusion of this Declaration, as well as the Joint Ministerial Statement, is a testament to the shared desire to advance efforts in maintaining trade and supply chain connectivity amid the Covid-19 situation, and in bringing more like-minded partners together to do so.
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