PM Jacinda Ardern in Singapore: 'We're like-minded on many issues'

PM Jacinda Ardern in Singapore: 'We're like-minded on many issues'

PM Jacinda Ardern in Singapore: 'We're like-minded on many issues'


Ardern says one of the things being announced is a "refreshed" working holiday scheme with Singapore.


She says New Zealand is relaunching and expanding its Working Holiday Scheme with Singapore and will welcome applications from 5 May.


During her first international trip since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Ardern met with young people in Singapore who have been on the scheme or are interested in applying.


Ardern told them that from 5 May:

  • 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 are looking forward to welcoming Singaporean working holidaymakers back to New Zealand."


She says unlike some other working holiday schemes the one with Singapore which has been in place since 1999 has had limitations that set it apart from other countries.


These included a smaller age range of 18-25, a shorter time period of six months, and a requirement for participants to have been involved in tertiary education.


She says the refreshed programme come "just in time for the reopening of New Zealand's borders".


"The changes that we'll be making will mean that now Singaporeans and New Zealanders aged between 18 and 30 will be able to participate in working holiday schemes in either country."


On testing for Covid-19, Ardern says she is pleased to confirm she has returned a negative PCR test and will be travelling on to Tokyo tomorrow.


"I think what we can see from the experience that we're all having as part of this delegation is that many borders, many countries around the world do still have restrictions or requirements in place as part of their border reopenings. We're experiencing that and it's just a demonstration again of the impact of the pandemic."


Ardern says 20 percent of New Zealand's exports come through Singapore, so trade will be a big part of bilateral talks with Prime Minister Lee.


"But also just the environment we find ourselves in, the war in Ukraine, the continuing geostrategic pressures in our region. Singapore's an important partner for us, we're like-minded on many issues, so I imagine those will be top of mind."


She says there are already signs the US is looking to further their economic ties in Asia, and New Zealand, Singapore and Japan have all seen benefits from the CPTPP.


"It sets a very high standard for trade, and that's the kind of standard that we'll of course continue to be promoting that those who wish to join should be looking to that agreement as a good first port of call."


"We'll continue to encourage others to look to join that high-quality agreement, it's been very beneficial to New Zealand, but we'll also look for other ways to encourage particularly the United States to be part of the economic architecture of this region ... their presence here is valued in whatever form that takes."


She says the relationship between New Zealand and Singapore has not been on hiatus during the Covid-19 border closures, saying the countries have worked together on ensuring the flow medical products to New Zealand and food products to Singapore. The countries also worked to ensure critical goods and services, with the models set taken up by other countries as a result.


She says last time she and Prime Minister Lee were able to meet, they continued their business over lunch, and it's the kind of relationship where "at any point we can reach out and pick up the phone ... it's the kind of relationship where we check in frequently and share ideas".


She says it was a "no brainer" for New Zealand to increase the number of people accepted under the working holiday visa.


She says Prime Minister Lee has recently spoken to US President Biden, and it will be interesting to talk about his thoughts on future accession to CPTPP.


"With CPTPP Those who are applicants who wish to join, they are worked through in succession. There are a number who are interested but that won't stop us from continuing to encourage others."


Ardern says we want to see greater engagement from the United States in the region.


Trade forms a strong basis for that engagement, she says.


"We don't want the region to solely be having conversations around strategic defence issues, militarisation issues, we want to be talking about foreign policy as a whole and the role that actual greater engagement economically can play in this region, and stability in the region as well."


She says strong statements have been made by Singapore on Ukraine, regardless of its abstention on a vote to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.


"On Ukraine, Singapore has in my mind taken a strong position, as you've seen many other countries do."


She says it's "fantastic" to be able to again be able to promote New Zealand's interests abroad, "but you are reminded that the whole world is in a transition right now".


"Up to our third test as part of this trip, the world isn't quite back to normal, but we are in a great position as a nation to encourage people to come visit our part of the world because we are open for business."


Ardern and the trade delegation - including Trade Minister Damien O'Connor, officials, a dozen business people and media - landed in Singapore yesterday, "very excited" about heading overseas after two years of border closures due to Covid-19.


Singapore and Japan are New Zealand's fourth and fifth biggest trading partners, and both party to the CPTPP trade agreement New Zealand is also a member of.


Ardern has already expressed hopes of adding the United States to the agreement, and is expected to discuss it with leaders on this trip.


She is expected to speak alongside Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong later this afternoon.


Remaining in Singapore tonight, the delegation flies to Japan tomorrow for three nights before returning to New Zealand.


There are strict entry protocols for Japan and three members from the delegation who have returned weak positive results, believed to be from previous infections, will be returning to New Zealand instead.


RNZ News. (2022, April 19). PM Jacinda Ardern in Singapore: “We’re like-minded on many issues.” RNZ.

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