Remarks by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the joint press conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the 6th Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat on 16 March 2023, in Singapore.
Your Excellency President Joko Widodo
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I welcome President Jokowi and his delegation to Singapore. This is our sixth Leaders’ Retreat together.
There have been many significant developments since our last Retreat in Bintan. The COVID-19 situation has stabilised around the world and in Singapore and Indonesia. Cross-border travel has resumed and is picking up pace. Indonesia has enjoyed significant success in 2022. Indonesia’s G20 Presidency delivered a hard-won Leaders’ Declaration and other concrete outcomes, including the Just Energy Transition Partnership, and the creation of the Pandemic Fund, which Singapore is happy to contribute to.
Our bilateral relationship has made good progress. In Bintan last year, President Jokowi and I witnessed the signing of the Expanded Framework Agreements. These addressed three longstanding issues between Singapore and Indonesia. There was the Agreement on the Realignment of the Boundary between the Jakarta Flight Information Region (FIR) and the Singapore FIR, Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) and Treaty for the Extradition of Fugitives (ET).
I am happy that both sides have now ratified all three agreements. We had discussed these issues many times over an extended period, and have come a long way to get here. I thank President Jokowi and his Ministers for their leadership and support and hardwork in getting the agreements ratified. Singapore looks forward to working with Indonesia to complete the next steps.
Last week, we jointly applied for approval from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for the new arrangements under the FIR Agreement. Following ICAO’s approval, both countries will agree on a date for the three agreements to be implemented simultaneously. The three agreements on these longstanding issues will bring lasting benefits to both sides. The successful outcome reflects our strong bilateral relations, and shows that Singapore and Indonesia can gain substantial mutual benefits through open and constructive engagement.
President Jokowi and I also discussed new areas of cooperation. First, on the digital economy, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Tech:X Programme today. This will allow young tech professionals from Singapore and Indonesia to undergo work exchanges and gain experience from each other’s tech industries. Our tech cooperation will strengthen ASEAN collaboration in this emerging sector. This includes working towards a Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) under Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship.
Secondly, on sustainability, there is much potential in the green economy sector. We signed an MOU on Renewable Energy Cooperation today. This will support commercial arrangements on the development of renewable energy capabilities, on transmission infrastructure and cross-border electricity trading. It will strengthen the energy infrastructure and energy transition and energy security for both Singapore and Indonesia, and also support regional initiatives like the ASEAN Power Grid. It is a win-win outcome.
Sustainability extends to infrastructure development. We signed the MOU on Sustainable Urban and Housing Development, which will facilitate cooperation in developing innovative financing for smart and sustainable infrastructure development, and significantly will include the Nusantara Capital City as a pilot.
President Jokowi and I discussed the Nusantara project at length, and his vision for a “green” and “smart” Nusantara. It is a major priority for the President and for Indonesia. Singapore is happy to support the President’s vision. We will contribute towards knowledge-sharing, and joint R&D activities.
One of the MOUs today covers Collaboration on Knowledge Sharing, Capacity Building and Research, to support the planning and development of Nusantara as a smart and sustainable city, and there have also been expressions of interest from our private sector in the project and I told President Jokowi that we look forward to the forum, which he is planning in May, for investors to show them what Nusantara offers and to interest them in the project, and we will encourage Singaporean entrepreneurs and companies to participate in this.
Next, on human capital development. Last year, we launched the Human Capital Partnership Arrangement (HCPA) to formalise cooperation. Our people are our best resource, and both countries place heavy emphasis on nurturing talent. I am glad that many initiatives are progressing on this front. Our Education Ministries launched the Youth Mobility Programme (YMP) for university students to take up longer internships in each other’s countries.
We also renewed an MOU on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and there are several other projects as well. I look forward to more interactions between our students, our educators, our civil servants, and our regional leaders.
Singapore and Indonesia have also deepened cooperation in traditional areas. Our Defence Ministries reaffirmed our strong bilateral defence ties through the Indonesia-Singapore Joint Update on Defence Cooperation. The SCDF and Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency also signed an MOU on Urban Search and Rescue.
In health cooperation, our MOU promotes the exchange of information, knowledge, data and technology in the health sector. Throughout the pandemic, we cooperated closely and post-pandemic, we will continue to do so.
In finance, we have extended the Bilateral Financial Agreement (BFA) between our central banks for the fourth year in a row. This will help our countries to foster monetary and financial stability in a more volatile economic world.
Besides G2G cooperation, our businesses are strengthening commercial linkages with one another. We have MOUs covering digital economy and healthcare, links which form an important part of our deep, multi-layered and comprehensive partnership. These are MOUs in the private sector.
The President and I also discussed regional developments, I assured him of Singapore’s full support for Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship and for his priorities as ASEAN Chair. On Myanmar, we both regretted the lack of progress in ASEAN’s Five Point Consensus (5PC). Singapore will continue working with Indonesia and with ASEAN Members, plus ASEAN’s partners like the UN, to push for the full implementation of the 5PC. And we will also work with Indonesia and ASEAN Members on the roadmap for Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership, and do our part to help Timor-Leste prepare for the obligations and commitments which it will take on when it joins ASEAN.
So, our bilateral relations are in excellent order. We have taken a major step forward to resolve three longstanding issues. We are ready to break new ground in fresh areas of cooperation that are deep, multifaceted, forward-looking, and mutually beneficial and will make a difference to future generations. I thank President Jokowi for his steady leadership of Indonesia and his important contributions to the strong relations between our two countries.
Thank you very much.
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