Singapore FTA tweak imminent

A resolution to long-running discussions with Singapore over New Zealand’s foreign buyers ban is around the corner, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

When Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker announced a workaround last October allowing the Government to implement the ban without breaching the TPP and most other free trade agreements, he acknowledged it would pose challenges to the Singapore FTA.

It’s understood Singaporean officials were angered by the breach of the FTA, and there appeared to be little New Zealand could offer as compensation of sorts.
While Ardern expressed confidence the issues could be sorted out through a renegotiation, discussions between the two countries have dragged on for months without a solution.

However, at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Ardern said there was light at the end of the tunnel.

“That’s something that we’re in the final throes of our discussions around, and I expect the Minister of Trade and Export Growth to make announcements on that reasonably soon.”

There were mixed messages late last year over whether Singapore could receive a similar carve-out to that afforded to Australia, with Housing Minister Phil Twyford suggesting it was possible but Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters seeming to nix the idea.

While it’s unclear which minister is right, a carve-out would certainly appear the easiest way to solve the impasse.

Finding a solution is important given the strong defence ties between the two countries - there has been talk for some time of Singapore basing its F-15 fighter jets at Ohakea Air Base - and ongoing work on an Enhanced Partnership agreement.