SINGAPORE (May 1): Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and trade ministers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Korea have agreed to expedite customs procedures, and ensuring transport and customs clearances of essential items such as food and medical supplies, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on May 1.

The agreement was made through the Joint Ministerial Statement on Action Plans to Facilitate the Flow of Goods and Services as well as the Essential Movement of People (or Joint Statement). The Joint Statement was endorsed and launched by the ministers via a videoconference on the same day.

The ministers also discussed further actions to help mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the same conference.

These include continuing operations of logistics networks via air, sea, and land, as well as working closely with key multilateral economic institutions amongst others to introduce an inclusive and sustainable economic recovery, and to cushion the impact of Covid-19 on trade and investment.

In the same statement, the ministers agreed to resume essential cross-border travel amongst the countries, while keeping public health considerations in mind.

“This Joint Statement, together with other bilateral and plurilateral statements made recently, represents our collective commitment to maintaining trade and supply chain connectivity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Chan.

“These initiatives will not only help us overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also position us well for a swift recovery once the situation stabilises,” he adds.

In a separate statement, MTI and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have agreed to keep markets open and work with “like-minded partners” to ensure trade across borders. Similarly, both countries will not impose export restrictions on essential supplies including agricultural food products and medical supplies.

According to Chan, both countries share a mutual interest in areas such as pharmaceuticals and consumer electronics, and that both will “work together to strengthen the resilience of supply chains and connectivity networks, explore resuming the essential movement of people, and deepen cooperation in the digital economy”.