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Win-win for Australia, Singapore business

The Australia-Singapore business relationship is about to take a major step forward. Because the relationship is so stable and the two countries so familiar with one another, it can be easy to take the value for granted.

" The latest initiatives will see trade, cross-border business and inbound FDI increase considerably for both Australia and Singapore."
David Green, CEO Singapore & Head of South-East Asia and India, ANZ

Now the latest set of initiatives announced under the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework are the biggest step forward in bilateral relations between the countries in a generation.

This announcement will build on a 10-year roadmap under the seminal Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, signed in June 2015, and designed to deepen the countries’ collaboration in all areas of bilateral relations and enhance  economic integration.

Even before the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community, Singapore and Australia have shared a close bilateral relationship - in trade, defence and culture - which has grown significantly over the past five decades.

The latest initiatives will further enhance trade, cross-border business and inbound FDI for both Australia and Singapore.

Most significantly, updated trade rules to the 2003 Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and improved access for businesses to bid for government procurement contracts in the other country will substantially reduce red tape and increase bi-lateral trade, business and FDI.

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Annual growth in inbound FDI from ASEAN has slowed to around 10 per cent in recent years, but assuming that growth slows further to around 5 per cent per annum (dark blue line), this will still equate to an additional $US50billion of FDI by 2030.

The initiatives also include important steps forward in labour mobility. There are 50,000 Singaporeans in Australia and more than 20,000 Australians in Singapore.

In this regard, improved mobility and lengths of stay for business people – and greater transparency to support this group seeking to move between the two markets – will reinforce this positive dynamic.

SHARING OF KNOWLEDGE, EXPERTISE

The improved travel provisions, which extend to families of investors/independent executives, will no doubt increase the level of business between Australia and Singapore, and promote the sharing of knowledge and expertise.

The countries’ intention to pursue a mutual recognition of professional qualifications will also contribute to promoting business growth by enabling a more seamless flow of talent.

While these trade and economic benefits will be felt across the board, there will also be specific benefits to certain sectors.

Currently, Australia’s competitive advantage as a major exporter of commodities is reinforced by Singapore’s unique position as a regional hub with logistics and supply chain networks.

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The new Singapore-Northern Australia Agribusiness Development Partnership enhances this symbiotic relationship by helping Australian and Singapore companies work together to secure reliable supply chains for food and agribusiness products through investment-led development of northern Australia.

On one hand, the partnership will help promote development of this region and the growth of Australia’s agribusinesses; on the other hand, it will assist Singapore companies to further expand and leverage their opportunities.

The initiative on innovation and science is also timely.  Singapore is confronted with growing competition from the Mekong economies as they move up the manufacturing value chain, increasing the need for Singapore to carve out new niches to maintain economic competitiveness.

Singapore has recognised that structural shifts in its economy, like the gradual move out of manufacturing and into services, may accelerate with ASEAN’s rise.

This commitment between Singapore and Australia to promote closer collaboration, exchanges and agency-to-agency innovation and science engagement will aid Singapore’s efforts in innovation amid its multi-year restructuring.

The new package of cooperation initiatives is a substantial first step in the countries’ decade-long plan to enhance bilateral links on every level.

What will be interesting to see is how businesses take advantage of this and forge new frontiers against a backdrop of wider regional integration and the current climate of subdued global growth, higher business costs and economic uncertainty.

David Green is is CEO Singapore & Head of South-East Asia and India, ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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