Opening remarks at joint press conference with Prime Minister Lee

Prime Minister Lee – thank you for the very warm welcome to Singapore.  

I would like to start by expressing to you, Prime Minister Lee, our appreciation for how New Zealanders resident in Singapore have been looked after during COVID-19.

I also, on a personal note, wish to thank you for the contact we have maintained through Covid. I suspect we are both pragmatic people and that certainly was reflected in a conversation mid-lockdown in 2020 where we talked about how we could support each other’s food supply, and supply chain issues. That was one of many conversations, and I was grateful for each.

I also want to acknowledge Singaporeans who have lost friends and family to COVID-19 in the same way that so many have around the world.

Prime Minister, in our meeting today we reflected on the cooperation that has occurred during the past two years between our two countries. They say that during tough times you are reminded who your friends are and, Prime Minister Lee, it is clear Singapore is a very close friend of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Looking forward

It is hard to believe that it was three years since I was in Singapore to sign the Enhanced Partnership – a strategic agreement between New Zealand and Singapore. It was pleasing today to note, Prime Minister, the ongoing cooperation between Singapore and New Zealand across many fields since we last met, including the valuable discussions between our health, border, transport and other officials on COVID-19.

Yet, given the existential threat posed by climate change, it is fitting that today we agreed a joint statement that adds a fifth pillar to the Enhanced Partnership. Under this pillar, New Zealand and Singapore will collaborate on a range of areas – from low carbon technology to sustainable aviation.

Initiatives include a joint research project on low carbon technology, ongoing cooperation on hydrogen standards and information exchanges on themes such as low emissions vehicles and low carbon shipping. We look forward to the shared insights gained from these initiatives.

As I have said before, we cannot collectively simply return to a high carbon emission business as usual approach. Globally, we have entered what must be an age of action, and that includes the private sector as well. No Government can do this alone, it takes a strong joint effort and I know the business delegation that is travelling with me agrees with this.

I believe this collaboration with Singapore will contribute to the transition to low carbon economies that needs to take place in coming years, as both countries work to meet Paris Agreement commitments.

We have very consciously travelled to Singapore with a delegation of New Zealand business leaders. And that’s in part because there is also considerable scope for our companies to partner together on sustainability initiatives – and in other areas such as digital, agri-food, healthcare and tourism. As I’ve met and talk with our travelling party, it’s been exciting to hear the existing work and partnerships they have here in Singapore. But also the potential!

Trade

New Zealand and Singapore are close and natural partners on trade. We both remain committed to free and open rules-based trade and investment. Today we discussed our shared determination to strengthening the WTO and the multilateral trading system more broadly.

We also discussed opportunities for our countries to work together to strengthen supply chain resilience. As well, there are opportunities for our businesses to partner in delivering exports and services into South and South-East Asia in coming decades.

I am pleased that today we directed our officials to establish a supply chain dialogue, to support increased supply chain cooperation. This is especially important at a time like this with global uncertainty around COVID and Ukraine.

People to People

We also reflected on the re-opening of each country’s respective border to each other. New Zealanders can now visit Singapore quarantine free, while Singaporeans will be able to visit New Zealand from 2 May. We look forward to welcoming our Singaporean friends back to New Zealand, be it for tourism, education or business.

Prime Minister – of course you would be very welcome to visit New Zealand. We would love to reciprocate the warmth and hospitality you have shown us.

Defence and Security

On defence and security, we discussed the excellent cooperation that has occurred between New Zealand and Singapore despite COVID-19. Our respective defence forces do much together – including under the Five Power Defence Arrangements. With the re-opening of borders we do also look forward to the Singapore Armed Forces returning to Waiouru for their artillery exercises.

Prime Minister Lee and I also had the opportunity to discuss regional and global issues of concern – including Myanmar and Ukraine. It is clear that the world is changing and that events such as the crisis in Ukraine are putting considerable pressure on the international rules-based order.

New Zealand has always been a staunch supporter of the international rule of law and the UN Charter. Disputes must be solved through dialogue and not intimidation or coercion. We look forwards to continuing to work with like-minded countries, such as Singapore, to support the resolution of such conflicts through peaceful means.

Concluding remarks

Prime Minister Lee – let me conclude by emphasising that in a fast-changing world, New Zealand and Singapore are stronger through working together. Together, there is much we can do to support the prosperity of all of our peoples, to enhance and protect our countries and to ensure our businesses have the best chances to prosper for the benefit of all our people.