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New Singapore-Australia free trade agreement a win for service providers

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Australian service providers will be the big winners following the recent signing of a new trade agreement with Singapore.

The new agreement creates significant new opportunities for sectors such as education, law, financial and professional services.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo signed an agreement to “upgrade” the 11-year-old Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) with his Singaporean counterpart Minister Lim Hng Kiang today.

The Agreement is a crucial part of Australia’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Singapore.

Mr Ciobo said the new deal will put Australian exporters on an equal or better footing than its foreign competitors.

This is the most comprehensive deal we've been able to strike with Singapore,” he said.

“It's a deal that really does advantage Australian service providers especially. Both Singapore and Australia have highly mature, developed economies. Services trade is going to be the best opportunity for Australia.”

The amended SAFTA builds on the success of recent free trade agreements with the North Asia powerhouse economies of China, Japan and Korea.

Close relationship

Mr Ciobo says the amendments provide an opportunity torevitalise the relationship between Singapore and Australia and make it even closer.

As part of the agreement Singapore has also agreed to recognise the Juris Doctor degrees of Australian universities currently listed in SAFTA, providing access for those universities that have moved to a graduate model of legal education.

Australia and Singapore will also establish a framework under SAFTA to support mutual recognition of professional qualifications. Priority will be given to arrangements for engineers and accountants, with Singapore and Australia agreeing to commence negotiations on mutual recognition arrangements.

Complementing existing tariff-free entry for goods, the updated rules of origin will simplify administration and reduce the compliance costs for traders using the Agreement.

SAFTA will also reduce red tape for investors from Singapore, Australia’s fifth-highest source of foreign investment, by harmonising the Foreign Investment Review Board screening thresholds for Singapore with those agreed under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

“We are also supporting innovation exchange between Australia and Singapore by establishing a Landing Pad for Australian entrepreneurs at Singapore's largest integrated startup space, BASH (Build Amazing Startups Here),” Mr Ciobo said.

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