SINGAPOREANS on Monday said 'G'day' to a new free-trade mate, with the signing of a pact with Australia that is set to create more jobs and boost businesses ranging from phone companies to flower exporters.
The free-trade agreement (FTA) will also see Australia fully freeing up key service sectors such as real estate and tourism, giving Singaporean firms a chance to make further inroads into its services sector.
The pact – eliminating cross-border tariffs, smoothing the way for flows of business and investment – is the fifth such deal Singapore has recently clinched with trading partners, and comes soon after the landmark FTA with the United States, the world's biggest economy.
And economists said that one key upside to the deal could be Australia's own trade pact with the US, which is now being negotiated.
Under the FTA with Australia, the Republic's 12th biggest trading partner, Singapore exporters of goods such as computers, and even orchids such as the national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim, will enjoy savings. And Vanda Miss Joaquim will arrive fresher, thanks to quicker Customs clearance.
Telecommunications companies such as SingTel will also enjoy a more level playing field in the Australian market.
In all, the deal – following two years of negotiations – will allow local firms to save S$31.6 mil (RM63.83mil) a year from the scrapping of tariffs, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said.
Singapore's exports to Australia used to face tariffs of up to 25%. About S$3.3 bil (RM6.67bil) worth of Singapore goods will be able to enter Australia tax-free, up from S$2.6bil (RM5.25bil).
Yesterday's deal will also allow mutual recognition of some educational qualifications. For example, aspiring lawyers here will have more choice of Singapore-approved Australian law schools.
And there is another reason for cheer: Without tariffs, Singaporeans can enjoy cheaper Australian beer and stout. –The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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