Tabling of the Agreement To Amend Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA)

  • Speech, check against delivery

It gives me great pleasure to table the Agreement to Amend the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the accompanying National Interest Analysis for Parliament's consideration.

This is our most comprehensive update to an FTA to date, and a demonstration of the Government's commitment to ensuring our trade agenda is modern and agile. As the makeup of our economy and the needs of business change, so too must the rules that govern our international trade.

In June 2015, the Prime Ministers of Australia and Singapore announced the launch of the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), an initiative to strengthen and deepen our two countries' strategic, trade, economic, defence and people-to-people links. The SAFTA review is the key economic plank of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. It reflects Australia and Singapore's unwavering commitment to the principles of free and open trade.

The original SAFTA provided a strong platform for the expansion of our economic and trade relationship with Singapore – a 21st-century regional economy and a gateway to the rest of Asia. SAFTA has seen Australia's goods exports to Singapore grow to $5.5 billion in 2015-16, and services exports to $4.3 billion – our fourth-largest export market for services.

The updated SAFTA will give Australian businesses a competitive edge in Singapore. It will provide new access for Australian service providers, particularly in education and professional services. Additional qualifications in law, medicine and allied health from a number of Australian universities will now be recognised in Singapore.

Australian lawyers and financial service providers will enjoy improved access to Singapore's legal and financial services markets.

The SAFTA review will create new opportunities for businesses to bid for high-value government procurement contracts in Singapore, including in sectors such as road transport, construction and engineering. The updated agreement will improve mobility and lengths of stay for Australian business people and their spouses and dependents. It will include modern outcomes on telecommunications services and e-commerce, and harmonise trade rules in goods, services and investment, thereby reducing red tape for businesses.

The business community has resoundingly welcomed the breakthroughs we've been able to make in the SAFTA review.

The Australian Services Roundtable said that 'the Review brings about certainty for services firms in a range of areas and creates an economic relationship which will enhance trade opportunities for this important market'.

The Law Council of Australia said the review demonstrates that SAFTA is a 'useful, living agreement that can deliver enhanced market access outcomes for the Australian legal profession and their clients'.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce observed that 'Singapore is best placed to be a hub for businesses looking to expand into the broader South East Asian region and these changes make it easier for companies to do that'.

I would like to acknowledge the bipartisan support for this FTA review.

I hereby table the Agreement to Amend the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement, with its National Interest Analysis and commend them to the House.

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