The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP

Joint Media Release

The Minister for Trade, Australia, Mark Vaile and the Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore, George Yeo

Monday, 17 February 2003 - Singapore

Signing of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement

Today we are reaffirming the close relationship between Australia and Singapore by signing the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The Agreement builds on our strong economic partnership and will contribute to greater growth, prosperity and security in the region.

SAFTA is a comprehensive agreement that is fully consistent with our shared interests in a strong and effective World Trade Organization and complements our active cooperation in the WTO. Both our countries have made commitments in SAFTA that go beyond our existing liberalisation obligations in the WTO, and we see it as a stepping stone towards further progress at the multilateral level.

In addition, SAFTA is consistent with our countries' APEC commitments to broader trade and economic reform objectives and is a positive initiative to advance the Bogor goals of free and open trade and investment.

When Singapore and Australia agreed to start talks on an FTA on 15 November 2000, the global economic landscape was beginning to change from a positive outlook to a less certain one. Notwithstanding the economic and regional uncertainties however, we believed that progress on trade liberalisation should not be allowed to falter. More open trade in a rule-based environment will lead to economic growth and prosperity, bring more transparency to the business framework and strengthen consumer and investor confidence.

SAFTA takes this agenda forward through its commitments on tariff elimination, market access for service suppliers, transparent customs procedures, promotion of fair competition, access to government procurement markets, increased integration of capital markets, easier entry for business visitors, mutual recognition agreements and co-operation in the education sector.

The mutual benefits include tariff-free entry for all Singapore exports to Australia, easier access for Australian service suppliers into the Singapore market, and more choices of universities for Singaporeans wishing to study law in Australia.

We believe this Agreement will create opportunities for synergies between the business sectors in Australia and Singapore, and will contribute to a stronger bilateral partnership that will encompass the private sector and the broader community as well as government. SAFTA will help both countries in continuing to play strong roles in contributing to the economic progress of our region.

We look forward to this partnership between our peoples, our firms and our bilateral relationship in the 21st century.

Media Contact: Robyn Bain (Mr Vaile's office) on 02 6277 7420

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