Singapore works with 4 nations to resume essential cross-border travel

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing at the video conference with his counterparts from Australia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand yesterday. They later issued a joint statement.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing at the video conference with his counterparts from Australia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand yesterday. They later issued a joint statement.PHOTO: CHAN CHUN SING/FACEBOOK

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and trade ministers from Australia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand have agreed to facilitate the resumption of essential cross-border travel.

This will be balanced with public health considerations amid the Covid-19 pandemic, they said.

Guidelines will be established to facilitate such travel, which should be for the purposes of maintaining global supply chains.

They also agreed to expedite Customs procedures and refrain from introducing export restrictions on essential items such as food and medical supplies, as well as ensure that logistics networks continue to operate via air, sea and land freight.

"These initiatives will not only help us overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also position us well for a swift recovery once the situation stabilises," said Mr Chan in a Facebook post yesterday.

The five ministers issued a joint statement after a video conference yesterday, detailing action plans to facilitate the flow of goods and services, as well as the essential movement of people.

For example, Customs procedures could involve greater use of electronic means, which minimise face-to-face interactions without lengthening processing times.

The ministers also committed to minimising the impact of Covid-19 on trade and investment, and facilitating economic recovery from the pandemic. This would entail working closely with key institutions like the World Trade Organisation, sharing of best practices, and consulting with the private sector to come up with solutions, they said.

During the video conference, Mr Chan said that to overcome challenges to production capacities, capabilities and connectivity, countries will have to "resist the protectionist tide of looking inwards and allowing trade restrictive measures to persist".

He was addressing his counterparts - Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham; Canadian Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng; South Korea's Minister for Trade Yoo Myung-hee; and New Zealand's Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker.

Travel restrictions arising from the coronavirus have also disrupted business activities around the world. Resuming essential travel can help to bring about economic recovery, added Mr Chan.

"For us to achieve this, it will be important for us to have some standardised protocols for mutual assurance of health standards, in terms of testing and contact tracing.

"If we can work together on similar standards for reassurance, that will be a great help towards the resumption of travel."

Separately, Singapore and Japan also agreed yesterday to deepen economic cooperation to secure supply chains for essential goods and strengthen economic resilience.

Both sides will refrain from imposing export restrictions on essential supplies, including agricultural food and medical supplies, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in a joint statement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore works with 4 nations to resume essential cross-border travel'. Print Edition | Subscribe