Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat on 8 October 2019.
Your Excellency President Joko Widodo, ministers, ladies and gentlemen, may I welcome President Jokowi and his delegation to Singapore. I am very glad to receive the President again after his visit to our Bicentennial National Day Parade just two months ago.
I would like to congratulate the President again on his re-election. He will commence his second term in two weeks’ time. I thanked him for his invitation to the inauguration and I am looking forward to be there on the 20 October. I am very happy that in President Jokowi’s first term, we have built an excellent relationship of trust and cooperation, and our bilateral relations have prospered. I look forward to deepening this relationship with him and his new Cabinet team in his second term, and to bringing Singapore-Indonesia relations to a new level.
Just now, we had a very good meeting in our fourth Leaders’ Retreat – four-eye and then with delegation – and we took stock of our bilateral cooperation, which is comprehensive across the economic, people-to-people, and security sectors. We discussed how we can build on this strong foundation for mutual benefit.
Our economic ties are strong and continue to grow. Singapore has been Indonesia’s largest investor since 2014. Kendal Industrial Park in Central Java, which is a key bilateral project, continues to thrive. It has so far attracted US$800 million in investments from almost 60 companies, which will create an estimated 7,000 jobs. Nongsa Digital Park in Batam has done well too. It has attracted 90 tenant companies in a year since it opened, and has about 800 tech talent employed from Indonesia. Singapore and Indonesia remain each other’s top few trading partners and sources of visitor arrivals.
There is potential for us to do much more, especially in new areas. First, by strengthening our longstanding cooperation in the Batam-Bintan-Karimun (BKK) area. We launched the Fly-Ferry initiative in May this year, which enables a more seamless transit for passengers arriving in Changi Airport to go to Batam and Bintan. We have held joint investment promotion efforts overseas which have brought in new investments that will benefit our economies. We are also expanding collaboration efforts in the digital economy. Our Customs have just signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate link-ups of National Single Windows which will boost cross border trade. Nongsa Digital Park is stepping up training of tech talent, and it helps Batam be a “digital bridge” between Singapore and Indonesia. We have a tech incubator in Singapore called Block71, and Block71 now has a presence in Jakarta, also in Bandung and Yogyakarta, because there is a vibrant tech scene in Indonesia and this incubator will have many tenants.
Cruise tourism is also cruising along well. In 2017, two years ago, the President and I visited the Marina Bay Cruise Centre. Since then, we have launched new cruise routes to Bintan, Surabaya, and to Bali, and we are jointly exploring more cruise infrastructure and destination developments. Thirdly on infrastructure, Infrastructure Asia and its Indonesian counterpart, PT Sarana Multi Infrastructur, recently signed an MOU to support public-private partnership project development in Indonesia.
We discussed how we can catalyse more investments in each other. One key piece is the Bilateral Investment Treaty, which we signed at last year’s retreat, and which we hope Indonesia will ratify soon. Another important step is to update our Bilateral Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement which is now almost 30 years old and needs to be brought up to date. These will further strengthen the flow of trade and investments.
President Jokowi and I also discussed the importance of financial cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore. We agreed to renew the bilateral financial arrangement between Monetary Authority of Singapore and Bank Indonesia that we concluded last year in Bali, for one year. The arrangement comprises a local currency bilateral swap agreement, and an enhanced bilateral repo agreement, with a combined value of US$10 billion equivalent. The renewal, on existing terms, will help support monetary and financial stability in our countries, and also in the region.
Our people-to-people ties are robust. We have many cultural, educational, and institutional linkages and exchanges, including the annual Singapore-Indonesia Youth Leaders Exchange Programme, which was held for the third time this year. We will later this year roll out the RISING Fellowship for Indonesian regional leaders – RISING meaning Republic of Indonesia and Singapura – and this fellowship is to build relationships between our young leaders in order that they can learn from each other. We just signed an MOU on archives cooperation, which is one of many such link-ups between our institutions. Next year, we will be holding a Singapore-Indonesia Civil Service Forum to exchange best practices on bureaucratic reform.
Skills and human resources development are a priority for President Jokowi and we already have substantial collaboration here. We have trained thousands of Indonesian officials and trainers under the Singapore Cooperation Programme and more than 20 bilateral MOUs. The polytechnic at the Kendal Industrial Park has started training its first batch of 99 students. There are many student exchange and internship opportunities for our youth to spend time in each other’s countries. We can do more together for mutual benefit, particularly on training, and we have suggested some ideas for our officials to explore together.
Finally, defence relations are robust and have continued to grow from strength to strength. Our defence establishments have a full calendar of exchanges and exercises. These include Exercise Safkar Indopura between the Armies, which took place last month, and both our Air Forces have recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of Exercise Camar Indopura. I am glad to see that both sides are deepening the relationship, including through joint counter-terrorism exercises and through supporting Indonesia’s ASEAN Our Eyes information-sharing initiative.
I told President Jokowi that because he and I have built up a good relationship, I would like us to start working on some longstanding issues in an open and constructive manner.
Two such issues are airspace management, specifically the status of the Flight Information Region (FIR), and secondly military training in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. Over the last few months, our Ministers and officials have held preliminary discussion on these issues. They have agreed on a framework for discussion, laying out the core principles and considerations concerning these issues. This framework acknowledges that the core interests and rights of both countries must be recognised and respected, and that Indonesia and Singapore should negotiate agreements on these two issues that are durable and for the long haul. The framework offers a sound and comprehensive basis to work out solutions to these two issues, separately but concurrently.
President Jokowi and I are happy at this progress. We have instructed our Ministers and officials to follow up with detailed negotiations on the basis of this framework, and to conclude and implement the agreements in a timely manner.
So overall, our bilateral relations are in good shape – they are deep, multi-faceted, and forward looking. We have achieved much during the President’s first term, and I look forward to sustaining this positive trajectory and carrying it forward in his second term.
I am confident that we can do much more together to take relations to new heights and realise our win-win cooperation, for the mutual benefit of our peoples. Thank you very much.
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