Despite the persistent shocks to trade activities, Singapore and six other Pacific Rim countries have pledged to keep their supply chains open in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday (25 March), a joint statement was made by the trade ministers of these countries: “We recognise that it is in our mutual interest to ensure that trade lines remain open, including via air and sea freight, to facilitate the flow of goods including essential supplies.”

The statement by leaders of Singapore, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Myanmar and New Zealand highlighted the importance of removing restrictions on essential goods, particularly medical supplies while also not imposing tariff, non-tariff barriers and export controls on each other.

The latest statement is reminiscent of the earlier bilateral pledge between Singapore and New Zealand made jointly on 20 March. Both countries would guarantee supply chain connectivity despite the global spread of COVID-19.

Singapore, Chile and New Zealand have cooperated with other countries to convey their intent to “facilitate trade flows, especially in essential supplies, and refrain from trade restrictions during this time,” as stated by a spokesman for the Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

The participating group of ministers renewed their commitments to cooperate with like-minded nations to promote unhindered trade by ensuring crucial infrastructure like seaports and airports remain in operation.

“I’m happy to announce that Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile and Myanmar have come on board this initiative,” Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing remarked on Facebook as one of the signatories.

He added that “This will greatly boost our efforts to maintain open and connected supply chains which are needed to facilitate the flow of goods, especially essential supplies. We welcome more countries to join us in this endeavour.”

“Countries must band together and unite in this fight against the virus instead of making decisions that threaten global trade…The decisions that are made today will have a lasting effect on the global economy when the situation stabilises. While the short-term challenges are real and severe, as responsible governments, we must continue to keep an eye on the future and what it will bring for our businesses and people after the virus has been defeated,” Mr Chan stressed as he stated that Singapore will spearhead the effort to bring together like-minded countries so that supply chain connectivity and trade can be upheld.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic spread, many countries have imposed export restrictions on numerous goods such as pharmaceuticals in India and masks in Taiwan.

In the middle of March, the sales of personal protective equipment like goggles, gloves and masks outside the trading bloc have also been restricted by the European Union.

“We must ensure that component and raw materials can flow unimpeded and efficiently, so that global supplies of essential goods can be continually replenished,” MTI spokesman said, as he reminded that medical equipment manufacturing is often dependent on global supply chains.

As trade connectivity is “a critical pillar in our ability to respond effectively and efficiently to the Covid-19 situation”, MTI spokesman hopes that participating nations will avoid export restrictions and reduce trade disruptions particularly in essential goods.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused sea cargo port to be closed and restricted, air freight capacity to steeply dropped alongside volatile spikes in freight charges, he added.

MTI spokesman concluded that“countries should also uphold trade connectivity amidst the challenging circumstances” amidst the current situation where the government is introducing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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