Businesses hail Singapore-Australia pact; boost to investment and trade expected

The crowd watching performers at the Singapore Day event held in Sydney, Australia, on Oct 12, 2013.
The crowd watching performers at the Singapore Day event held in Sydney, Australia, on Oct 12, 2013.PHOTO: MINDEF

The business community has welcomed a wide-ranging pact inked between Singapore and Australia, which is expected to boost trade and investment between the countries.

The agreement will reduce red tape in trade, give businesses in both countries better access to government procurement contracts in each other's markets, and improve mobility and lengths of stay for business people, among other benefits.

It builds on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) adopted in June last year by the prime ministers of Singapore and Australia.

Both countries will adopt a package of measures to increase trade and investment flows, as part of moves to update and modernise the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement signed in 2003.

Australia will also establish a "landing pad" in Singapore to facilitate high-tech Australian start-ups.

Companies in both countries will also be able to tap a $50 million matching fund over five years as part of efforts on both sides to boost science and innovation cooperation.

Singapore was Australia's fifth-largest trading partner last year. Bilateral trade in 2015 amounted to $20.2 billion. Singapore is also the fifth-largest foreign investor in Australia, with total investments amounting to A$80.2 billion (S$80.4 billion).

The total stock of Australian investments in Singapore in 2014 was A$50.7 billion.

Mr David Green, chief executive of ANZ in Singapore and its head of South East Asia and India, said the pact is "the largest step forward in this bilateral relationship in a generation".

"(It will) support a significant increase in trade, cross-border business and inbound foreign direct investment for both Australia and Singapore."

Mr Guy Scott, president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce Singapore, said the new developments under the CSP address many issues that businesses highlight as roadblocks to their expansion into Singapore.

"The changes to labour mobility requirements are particularly exciting, and will open the door for many businesses to expand their presence in Singapore and give more of their staff a greater opportunity to experience working in Asian markets," he said.

"AustCham has been advocating strongly for many of these changes and to see them come to fruition is very encouraging. Now it is time for business to step up and take advantage of these new opportunities."

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chief executive Ho Meng Kit said the business communities of both countries "have a very close relationship and share similar perspectives on many global business issues".

The SBF also welcomed provisions such as the Singapore-Northern Australia Agribusiness Development Partnership, which aims to encourage Singaporean and Australian companies to work together to develop the food and agri-business industries in northern Australia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Businesses hail agreement; boost to investment and trade expected'. Print Edition | Subscribe