Food and trade partnership with Singapore

A Singapore-New Zealand partnership in food innovation has been signed in hopes of helping the sector grow and expand globally.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today that she and Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong had agreed on a working group to make supply chains more resilient – a topic both of them discussed at their bilateral meeting yesterday.

She said the impact on supply chains to small economies was obvious during Covid-19. That was critical for New Zealand, a big importer and exporter.

A fifth of New Zealand exports travel through Singapore to South East Asia, the wider Indo-Pacific and beyond, while five of our top 20 trading partners are in South East Asia.

“The global Covid-19 pandemic has showed us just how vulnerable economies of all sizes can be to supply disruption. The establishment of a New Zealand-Singapore Supply Chain Working Group will help us future-proof and protect our economies,” Ardern said.

This follows the commitment that New Zealand and Singapore made in March 2020 to ensure supply chain continuity amid the pandemic, while not imposing tariffs or other trade barriers on the flow of essential goods and services, including medical supplies.

The working group will seek to involve the private sector to improve freight data, share best practices, and grow global and regional partnerships to support supply chain resilience.

Ardern said one of the comments the chief executive of the Ports of Singapore had made was that every port was seeing a slowdown in operation and loss of productivity because of the impact of Covid-19 on people. That was despite high levels of automation.

The working group was an opportunity to get ahead of future challenges to the supply chains, she said.

“Every exporting nation and every trading nation is vulnerable to the impacts of anything that affects workforce and anything that affects supply lines.”

That had been critical in ensuring, for example, the shipping of vaccines to New Zealand.

Ardern was also expected to announce a sustainable aviation agreement with Singapore later today.

On inflation numbers coming tomorrow, Ardern said things were at a point where there was pressure from global issues – including supply chains and the war in Ukraine. She did expect that to show up in the consumer price index figures out tomorrow.

She dismissed National Party leader Christopher Luxon’s call to scrap Labour Day to make way for the new Matariki holiday because of the pressure it put on business and cost to the economy.

Ardern said the country should be able to celebrate its first Te Ao Maori holiday without losing another.

Asked if she thought Luxon’s objection was to the name “Labour day” because of the Labour Party, Ardern replied: “I hope not, we’re not getting rid of all national holidays are we.”

No need for Solomons pact: Ardern

Ardern today called on the Solomon Islands to rely on the partners it has always had for security after the country signed a security pact with China and said  New Zealand was ready and able to meet the security needs of its neighbours, along with other countries.

“There is no need for this agreement they have signed.”

She said there needed to be a regional-wide discussion on it.

“We must maintain strong relationships within our region.”

The Pacific Islands Forum had traditionally worked together to resolve issues within its own region.

Those countries had the “willingness and the ability to meet those needs ourselves.”

“We must draw clear lines where we have areas of concern and the militarisation of our region is a clear line.”

Ardern denied New Zealand and other countries had dropped the ball. She said the agreement allowed China to provide security for its own citizens in the Solomons after recent upheavals – but New Zealand and Australian forces had been there to provide that security for all the people there.

She said the Solomon Islands “absolutely” was in its own sovereign rights to make such a decision – but pointed to the Biketawa Agreement for countries to work together on security issues.

This agreement had been forged without the other Pacific countries being able to work together on it.

Ardern said at the officials’ level, concerns had been raised directly with China about militarisation of the region, and those concerns had been raised over the past few years.

“This is one example of what might potentially lend itself to militarisation” – although she noted both China and the Solomons had rejected that.

She had not spoken directly to China’s President Xi Jinping about it: “There are some leaders you simply don’t drop a Whatsapp to. I would consider President Xi and President Biden to be among those.”

However, concerns had consistently been raised at an officials level and other meetings.

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