Singapore and NZ to start talks on safe and gradual re-opening of borders

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern held a virtual summit on 27 May 2020. (PHOTO: MCI)

SINGAPORE — Singapore and New Zealand have agreed to start talks on the safe and gradual re-opening of borders as the leaders of the two countries held a virtual summit on Wednesday (27 May) to mark the one anniversary of the bilateral Enhanced Partnership (EP).

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern reaffirmed the two countries’ commitment to the continued implementation of the EP established on 17 May 2019 and work together to support an international response to COVID-19.

“We agreed to commence discussions on the development of common standards, systems and phasing, for the safe and gradual re-opening of borders to each other when the time is right and within the context of safe travel zone commitments, with the aim of restoring connectivity, facilitating trade and enabling essential business and official travel between the two countries,” Lee and Ardern said in a joint statement. 

In a post on his Facebook page, Lee said, “As part of safe reopening, we are discussing creating a green lane for short-term essential travel between our countries. I hope this works out, and it will not be long before PM Ardern and I can meet in person again.”

The leaders also discussed other issues related to the pandemic such as commitment to ensure that supply chains remain open and international cooperation on the development of a vaccine to combat COVID-19.

Through the Declaration on Trade in Essential Goods for Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic, signed last month, Singapore and New Zealand took concrete steps to address trade disruptions affecting essential supplies, the statement said.

The two countries will also explore cooperation on the procurement of pharmaceuticals in order to obtain essential medical supplies for both sides. 

“We will also cooperate multilaterally on vaccine development, as well as improving access and distribution to ensure our 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.”

Lee said in his Facebook post that in April, Singapore received 20 tonnes of New Zealand’s fine produce, while New Zealand received medical supplies on the return journey.

The two leaders also discussed the recently upgraded bilateral free trade agreement, the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, defence cooperation, climate change and other issues.

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