Singapore and New Zealand, emerging from Covid-19 pandemic, look to reopening borders

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) participated in the Singapore-New Zealand Virtual Summit on May 27, 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

SINGAPORE - Singapore and New Zealand will start discussing the safe and gradual reopening of borders as both countries emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, following a virtual meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern.

Such "green lane" arrangements between both countries would see the restoration of connectivity, and facilitation of short-term essential business and official travel, said the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MFA) in a statement on Wednesday.

The leaders had met to commemorate the first anniversary of the Singapore-New Zealand Enhanced Partnership, which paved the way for more collaboration in four areas: trade and economics; security and defence; science, technology and innovation; and people to people links.

They discussed the ongoing pandemic, agreeing on the importance of keeping markets open and supply chains functioning. They also agreed there is scope to cooperate on vaccine development.

"Working collectively is paramount," said PM Lee and Ms Ardern in a joint statement issued after the meeting. "We recognise the importance of multilateralism as essential for global post-Covid-19 recovery, for peacebuilding and prosperity, and for addressing other critical global issues, such as climate change."

Singapore and New Zealand will discuss the development of common standards, systems, and phasing for the reopening of borders "when the time is right and within the context of safe travel zone commitments".

They will also explore the possibility of cooperating to procure pharmaceuticals, and have agreed to work multilaterally on vaccine development, as well as improving access and distribution to ensure that both countries' populations are protected from further Covid-19 outbreaks.

"We will support efforts to make a vaccine, once developed, readily available for all countries, including developing countries in Asia and the Pacific," they said.

Both countries also remain ready to help each other by facilitating access to food products, goods, services and essential supplies - including medicines, medical and surgical equipment - as well as through the sharing of experiences and information.

"More importantly, we remain ready to help each other as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic," the leaders said.

Mr Lee and Ms Ardern also discussed issues such as food security, climate change, and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement between Singapore, New Zealand and Chile. Talks on the free trade agreement, which aims to set up a common set of rules, standards and guidelines for global digital trade and commerce, were concluded in January.

"We understand the role enhanced digitalisation will play in enabling international trade," the leaders said. "Furthermore, we also recognise that enhanced digitalisation will be important for assisting our economies not only recover more quickly from Covid-19, but become more resilient to the effects of global pandemics in the future."

They added: "Looking beyond the immediate response to Covid-19, we will continue discussions on the effects of the global economic downturn and explore options to build resilience into our economies for the well-being of all our peoples."

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