PM Jacinda Ardern announces climate change as new focus in NZ-Singapore collaboration
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed climate change - including low emissions shipping and flights - to be a new focus of New Zealand-Singapore relations during a press conference with her Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong. Both countries also agreed to continue to upgrade trade agreements in the region, and welcomed US efforts to establish an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. But Lee said he had no indication of the US trying to join the CPTPP trade agreement, which would counter China's growing influence in the region. Nor had the US asked Singapore to make any compromises to make it more lucrative for the US to join the agreement. "They have told us quite clearly it's nothing to do with us. It's just off the table because their politics does not make it possible at present, and meanwhile they wish to remain engaged in the region by whatever means are feasible," Lee said. Ardern is on her first trip overseas in over two years, with Singapore her first port of call followed by Japan later in the week. Ardern and Lees' joint statement also repeated both countries' "strong condemnation of the invasion and occupation of Ukraine and demanded Russia's immediate withdrawal". Asked about China's relationship with Russia in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as China's increasing influence in the Pacific, Ardern said that China "continued to acknowledge" the impact the conflict in Ukraine was having on the world. Lee said he was watching the impact of the invasion on China-Russia relations, and "therefore China-US relations". "We both have a vested interest in China-US relations being stable and not being complicated or further sharpened by hostility or lack of trust on both sides. And we hope that wisdom will prevail and Ukraine will not make things more complicated." Ardern and Lee added a fifth pillar - climate change and sustainability - to the New Zealand-Singapore Enhanced Partnership, including a focus on decarbonising the aviation sector. Lee said New Zealand was at the "end of the world", and decarbonising long flights should be a priority. Ardern said sustainable aviation was "critical", but so too was low-emissions shipping, given that 20 per cent of New Zealand's exports and 25 per cent of New Zealand's imports come through Singapore. The other four pillars are trade and economics, security and defence, science, technology and innovation, and people-to-people links. The Prime Ministers also agreed to deeper cooperation to future-proof supply chains from disruption, an issue which has been highlighted due to global Covid disruptions. "Singapore is an important partner for New Zealand in the face of current and future global challenges, from threats to global peace and security to climate change," Ardern said. Before her meeting with Lee, Ardern received a ceremonial welcome and called on Singapore's President Halimah Yacob, inspected the Guard of Honour at the presidential residence, and attended a ceremony where a pink hybrid orchid named after her was revealed. Earlier today, Ardern announced a "refreshed" working holiday scheme with Singapore. During her first international trip since the Covid pandemic began, the Prime Minister met with young people in Singapore who have been on the scheme or are interested in applying. From May 5: The number of working holiday scheme visas available to Singaporeans rises to 300 from 200 The age of eligibility is extended to 18-30 years of age The visa length is extended to 12 from 6 months, and Applicants no longer need to be university students but must have undertaken tertiary study in the previous two years. "Working holidaymakers are also tourists during their stay and tend to visit multiple regions, which will be beneficial for the tourism sector, hospitality, retail and local economies throughout New Zealand," Ardern said. "We very much forward to welcoming Singaporean working holidaymakers back to New Zealand." The scheme was part of the Singapore New Zealand Enhanced Partnership announced in May 2019 but the Covid pandemic prevented it from being operationalised. This morning it was revealed that three members of her 50-strong trade delegation tested positive for Covid-19 overnight. Ardern confirmed she had received a negative result so would be travelling on to Tokyo. The three infections are understood to be historic, so the delegates won't have to isolate and can fly back to New Zealand when the group heads to Japan on Wednesday. Ardern must be Covid-free in order to enter the Istana - the presidential residence where she had bilateral talks with Lee. Ardern said trade would top the agenda in her talks with PM Lee - it was an important region, given 20 per cent of imports came through Singapore. On the CPTPP, Ardern said it set a very high standard and "we will encourage others to join that high-quality agreement". However, the Government would also look at other ways for countries such as the US to build trade relationships. The US was an original party for the negotiations for the TPP, but former President Donald Trump had withdrawn from it soon after he was elected President. On her relationship with PM Lee, Ardern said they had worked together over shipping constraints - to help medical supplies get to New Zealand, and food supplies get to Singapore. "I think our relationship has been strengthened," she said, despite not being able to meet face to face. "PM Lee is someone who at any point you can reach out and pick up the phone." On being able to at last travel overseas, Ardern said it was "fantastic" to be out promoting New Zealand again. "The world isn't quite back to normal, but we are in a great position to be able to encourage people to come and visit our part of the world. We are back open for business." On what she would say about China, Ardern said the global order had been "threatened, disrupted and uprooted by Russia". She did not want to see further militarisation of the Indo-Pacific, and a strong stand had to be taken against any move to do that. Ardern arrived in Singapore yesterday on an RNZAF Boeing 757 flight and was greeted at the airport by Indranee Rajah, Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's office. It's her first overseas trip in more than two years. She spoke briefly this morning at a breakfast panel on digital disruption and a digitally enabled recovery, saying that some studies showed five years' worth of technology-based innovation happening in the first year of the pandemic. "The pandemic has taught us all the importance of resilience and innovation in the face of adversity. Creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit will drive us to solve the challenges created by climate change, ensuring a safer, more sustainable future for us all," Ardern told an audience of business leaders. "AI, machine learning and cloud computing represent just a few technologies that can be utilised to improve energy efficiency, water management, and enhanced food supply chains. "That's why despite the challenging time that both our countries have been through, it is also an exciting time for Singapore and New Zealand to be rekindling connections and fortifying international partnerships." Ardern is being accompanied on the trip by partner Clarke Gayford, Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor, as well as a Defence Force crew and a 12-strong trade and business delegation who are all heading to Japan on Wednesday. The trip's main message is that New Zealand, having been isolated for much of the pandemic, is open for business and tourists. A number of agreements to boost food exports and develop sustainable energy are expected to be announced. Ardern is scheduled to have a courtesy call with Singapore President Halimah Yacob before attending a gala dinner tonight. Trade with Singapore has surged in recent years and Singapore is now New Zealand's fifth biggest trading partner, right behind the fourth biggest, Japan. National unveils its health policy, Labour releases pledge card as Greens, Act push cases.