Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern on 17 May 2019.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, ladies and gentlemen. Kia ora and good afternoon.
I welcome the Prime Minister and your delegation to Singapore. Prime Minister was in Singapore six months ago for the ASEAN meetings, and I am very glad that she could visit us again so soon, especially since it is such a difficult time for New Zealand. I would like once again, on the record, to offer my deepest condolences to the bereaved friends and families of the victims of the Christchurch attacks. Singapore strongly condemns this atrocity. We stand in solidarity with New Zealand in the fight against terrorism.
In fact, Prime Minister has flown here from Paris, where she and President Macron launched the Christchurch Call. This initiative reaffirms the importance of addressing threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism online, and commits countries and online service providers to work together to tackle them. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for her leadership in rallying an effective international response to this serious issue. Singapore takes this problem very seriously. We will work with New Zealand, other countries and the online service providers, to tackle terrorism and violent extremism.
Today marks an important milestone for our two countries. The Prime Minister and I have just signed a Joint Declaration to establish an Enhanced Partnership. This will boost cooperation in trade and economics; security and defence; science, technology and innovation; and also our people-to-people links. The negotiations started in April 2017, just over two years ago, so I am very pleased that we have reached a comprehensive and ambitious agreement quite quickly, and if I may say so, a weighty agreement as well, as you can see the documents.
Singapore and New Zealand are natural partners. There is much warmth, respect and fondness for each other. We share similar strategic perspectives on the region, such as the importance of ASEAN centrality and an open and inclusive regional architecture. We both believe in trade liberalisation and support an open, rules-based international trading system. The New Zealand-Singapore Free Trade Agreement which we signed in 2000 was Singapore’s first bilateral FTA and New Zealand’s second bilateral FTA. So we're path breakers.
We were both initiators of the P4 FTA, together with Brunei and Chile. The P4 was the seed which eventually grew into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which both our countries have ratified and which is now in force. We are also currently working closely to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
So it is not surprising that our bilateral ties are longstanding and multi-faceted. Singapore is one of New Zealand’s top trading partners and investors. We have strong research links too. For example, NUS, the NUH System and A*STAR are collaborating with the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute on the world’s largest nutritional intervention study, a study of pregnant women to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and improve the health of mothers and their babies.
Our defence and security relations are substantial. We cooperate closely under the Five Power Defence Arrangements, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, and through peacekeeping operations. We deeply appreciate New Zealand’s support for SAF’s training at Waiouru. Our people are very familiar with each other – our armed forces, our servicemen, but also the public, because we have so many tourists visiting one another. Last year, nearly 62,000 Singaporeans visited New Zealand, while about 138,000 New Zealand nationals visited Singapore. These numbers are bound to grow now that our citizens can use each other’s self-processing immigration facilities at our checkpoints.
The Prime Minister and I also discussed regional and international developments, which there are many. I am happy that we had a meeting of minds on many of these issues. This is a region of growth and opportunity, with great potential to be realised. At the same time, it is a region troubled by difficult issues, including extremist terrorism, frictions between the major powers, and regional hot spots. As small countries, we cannot determine the course of events. But we will work with each other and with others to resolve problems through dialogue and peaceful means, and to build an open regional architecture which enables all countries to benefit from stability and security while competing and prospering peacefully together.
Once again, I would like to thank Prime Minister Ardern for her support for the Enhanced Partnership, and for our fruitful and warm discussions.
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