The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) is a central pillar of the economic relationship with Singapore, Australia's largest trade and investment partner in South-East Asia.
In addition to tariff elimination, the Agreement improves increased market access for Australian exporters of services, particularly education, environmental, telecommunications, and professional services. It also provides a more open and predictable business environment across a range of areas, including competition policy, government procurement, intellectual property, e-commerce, customs procedures and business travel.
SAFTA entered into force on 28 July 2003, subsequent amendments entered into force on 24 February 2006, 13 February 2007, 11 October 2007, 2 September 2011 and 1 December 2017.
On 13 October 2016, in Canberra, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment and his Singaporean counterpart Mr Lim Hng Kiang Minister for Trade and Investment signed the Agreement to Amend SAFTA [PDF 2.30 MB]. This Agreement reflects the outcomes of the third review of SAFTA, and formalises the trade outcomes announced on 6 May 2016 by Prime Minister Turnbull and his Singaporean counterpart Prime Minister Lee under the auspices of the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). The amendments entered into force on 1 December 2017.
Key interests and benefits
- Elimination of all tariffs from entry into force.
- Restrictions on the number of wholesale banking licenses to be eased over time and more certain, and enhanced operating environment for financial services suppliers.
- Conditions eased on establishment of joint ventures involving Australian law firms and number of Australian law degrees recognised in Singapore doubled from four to eight.
- Removal/easing of residency requirements for Australian professionals and short-term entry for Australian business people extended from one month to three months.
- Agreement to facilitate paperless trading in order to reduce business transaction costs.
Background on the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), February 2003
Entry into Force of the Agreement to Amend SAFTA
The Agreement to Amend the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) entered into force on 1 December 2017. This represents a significant upgrade to our trade relationship with Singapore.
SAFTA, signed in 2003, is one of Australia's most successful free trade agreements. Thanks to the upgrades, SAFTA will bring even more benefits to Australian business in the region creating opportunities for the thousands of Australians living in Singapore.
It will provide greater certainty for Australian service suppliers seeking to enter and work temporarily in Singapore. It will allow Australian lawyers to practise Singapore law and to work in international commercial arbitration. It will also enhance opportunities for Australia's education sector by increasing recognition of Australian tertiary qualifications. Australian companies are already winning high-value contracts with the Singapore Government, and the SAFTA upgrade will lock in these opportunities in sectors such as road transport, construction and engineering.
The SAFTA upgrade, a major outcome of the Singapore Australia Comprehensive Partnership, will further strengthen our relations with a key partner in the region.
Tabling of the Agreement to Amend SAFTA in the Australian Parliament
On 20 March 2017, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment, tabled the text of the Agreement to Amend SAFTA, and accompanying National Interest Analysis in the Australian Parliament. The updates to SAFTA will now be considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
Signing the Agreement to Amend SAFTA
On 13 October 2016, in Canberra, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment and his Singaporean counterpart Mr Lim Hng Kiang Minister for Trade and Investment signed the Agreement to Amend SAFTA [PDF 2.30 MB]. This Agreement reflects the outcomes of the third review of SAFTA, and formalises the trade outcomes announced on 6 May 2016 by Prime Minister Turnbull and his Singaporean counterpart Prime Minister Lee under the auspices of the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). The amendments will enter into force once both countries have completed their domestic treaty processes.
Conclusion of Third Review of SAFTA
On 6 May 2016, Australia and Singapore announced that the Third SAFTA Review was substantially concluded. The Third SAFTA Review will further integrate our two economies by locking in access and providing business certainty in trade and investment into the future. It will address longstanding ‘behind the border’ issues of interest to Australian services providers, in areas such as education, labour mobility and professional services. In a number of these areas, Singapore has offered Australia better commitments than it has previously offered to any other trading partner. To formalise these new outcomes, officials will continue technical work to prepare complete text for legal review and consideration and approval by both countries consistent with their respective domestic processes.
Third review of SAFTA
In June this year, the Prime Ministers of Australia and Singapore announced the third review of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), which is to be concluded by July 2016. The Review was launched as an initiative under the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
The decision by Prime Ministers reflects a commitment by both governments to advance deeper economic integration between our countries.
The Review follows the conclusion of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement in October, which included both Australia and Singapore. Australia is seeking to modernise SAFTA and build on the TPP.
The SAFTA Review will consider enhancements to SAFTA in areas such as goods trade, services, investment and government procurement.
Public submissions on the SAFTA Review are welcome. Submissions should be lodged by 15 January 2016 to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at: firstname.lastname@example.org
All contributions to the SAFTA Review are welcome, including comments, stakeholder input to the negotiations, background material and analytical material.
Amendments to the Singapore-Australia FTA
Singapore and Australia have completed the second review of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). The amendments entered into force on 2 September 2011.
The second review amended Chapters 8, 10, and 13 as well as Annexes 3A, 4-I(A), 4-II(A), 4-I(B) and 4-II(B). Key changes include:
- Singapore and Australia to accord investors from each country fair and equitable treatment when investing in the other country;
- prohibition of performance requirements; and
- amendments to reflect changes to legislation in Australia (the Copyright Amendment Act 2006) and Singapore resulting from each country’s bilateral FTA with the United States.
The second ministerial review of SAFTA was concluded on 27 July 2009 in Singapore. Amendments arising from the review are expected to come into effect in 2011.
SAFTA contains specific review provisions. The first ministerial review of SAFTA was held in Sydney on 14 July 2004.
On 17 February 2003, the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was signed. The final agreement was subject to parliamentary consultation processes, and entered into force on 28 July 2003 following an exchange of diplomatic notes.
SAFTA negotiations were launched following an announcement by both countries at the APEC Leaders' Meeting in November 2000. Ten full rounds of negotiations were held between April 2001 and October 2002.
The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement Business Guide explains how SAFTA has improved conditions of access to the Singapore market for many Australian businesses. It outlines new trade and investment opportunities for businesses in both Australia and Singapore, and describes how to take advantage of them.
Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement Business Guide
Doing business in Singapore
The Australian Trade Commission’s (Austrade) SAFTA website has further information about the agreement.
Austrade has identified potential opportunities for Australian suppliers of goods and services in a number of sectors. Austrade's Singapore country page supplies general information on doing business and on specific export opportunities. The Austrade website has a database that can be searched by industry.
Australian exporters seeking to access new opportunities under SAFTA may wish to obtain more information on rules of origin and other requirements from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Ministry of Manpower email helpdesk for Australians seeking to work in Singapore
The governments of Australia and Singapore are making it easier for our people to work in each other’s countries, as part of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) and an upgrade to the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has established a dedicated help desk to assist Australians seeking temporary entry into Singapore. The help desk will improve transparency and provide information:
- on requirements for temporary entry
- to Australians on applications for temporary entry
- regarding the status of applications for temporary entry
The email helpdesk is now up and running at: SAFTA_helpdesk@mom.gov.sg or call +65 6871 6047.