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Trade between Singapore and Australia is strong as the value of  two-way goods trade was AUD 16.2 billion  in 2015.  Both countries took steps to make it even stronger when they completed the 3rd review and signed updates to the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) on 13 October 2016.

The new agreement captures the most recent developments in trade rules and includes provisions from the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  It enters into force in 2017, once Singapore and Australia have completed their domestic treaty processes.


Australian government fact sheet, 13 October 2016.

How will this agreement help your business?

The updates create new trade rules for goods, increase opportunities for government contracts, provide greater access to the services sector, facilitate investments, improve mobility for business persons and create rules to facilitate trade in a digital economy. How will this agreement help your business?

  • easier claims for preferential treatment by way of clarifying and simplifying the rules of origin and origin certification;
  • full schedule of product specific rules of origin including products such as certain electronic machinery, equipment and parts thereof, and certain beverages;
  • allows for self-certification and sets origin verification procedures including written requests for information, requests for customs administrations to assist in verification and verification visits;
  • new rules and special annexes for the trade of cosmetics, medical devices, and wine and distilled spirits, which are consistent with the TPP.

Updates in the services sector include:

  • includes telecommunications and e-commerce TPP provisions to ensure consistency between the trade agreements;
  • recognizes Juris Doctor degrees of universities currently listed in SAFTA;
  • provides for new access for universities with a graduate model of legal education;
  • recognizes the health degrees in physiotherapy, occupation therapy and speech therapy;
  • establishes a framework under SAFTA to support mutual recognition of professional qualifications. Priority will be given to arrangements for engineers and accountants;
  • provides for cross-border services in investment advice and portfolio management services, and brokerage services for insurance of maritime, aviation and transportation related risk;
  • extends the length of stay from 3 months to two years for independent executives and contractual service suppliers;
  • extends the length of stay for intra-corporate transferees up to a new maximum stay of 15 years;
  • extends the length of stay for individuals offering services relating to installation and servicing of machinery and equipment for up to 3 months;
  • allows for spouses and dependents of Singaporeans and Australians to enter as intra-corporate transferees, independent executives and contractual service suppliers.

Updates for investments include:

  • updates the existing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and establishes more explicit safeguards that protect the Government’s right to regulate in the public interest including public welfare, health, environment;
  • establishes rules to protect government action that may be inconsistent with an investor’s expectations, which is not a breach of the minimum standard of treatment obligation;
  • excludes tobacco control measures from ISDS;
  • carves out certain government functions from being challenged under ISDS including pharmaceutical and medicare schemes, Therapeutic Goods Administration and Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, foreign investment policy, decisions of the Foreign Investment Review Board, social services including social welfare, public education, health and public utilities and policies related to creative arts, indigenous traditional cultural expressions and other cultural heritage;
  • harmonizes investment screening thresholds and rules with the TPP.

Updates for government procurement include:

  • modernizes and updates procurement practices including but not limited to establishing transparency for the procurement process and rules for technical specifications so as to avoid unnecessary obstacles to trade;
  • facilitates the participation of small and medium enterprises (SME) in government contracts by providing comprehensive procurement-related information in a single electronic portal, making tender documentation available free of charge, conducting procurement by electronic means and consideration of SME subcontracting.

Eugene Lim is the head of the Tax and Wealth Management practice in Singapore and the co-head of Baker & McKenzie's Asia Pacific Trade & Commerce practice. He has extensive experience relating to the structuring of supply chain and distribution strategies in the Asia Pacific region. Mr. Lim’s practice focuses on international trade, international tax planning, tax controversies, indirect tax, customs and excise, export controls, trade sanctions matters in Singapore, China and the Asia Pacific region. He also covers trade law developments in the WTO, APEC, ASEAN and under the various free trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region


Ken Chia is a member of Baker McKenzie's Asia Pacific IT & Communications and Global Privacy steering committees. He is regularly ranked as a leading ITC and competition lawyer by top legal directories, including Chambers, Asia Pacific Legal 500, PLC Which Lawyer? and Asialaw. Ken is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators. He is also an accredited mediator with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Group in the United Kingdom.