Transcript of Q&A Segment by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the joint press conference with Prime Minister Of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern on 19 April 2022. The Q&A segment begins at the 9:40 timestamp in the video.
Q (Channel News Asia): I would like to ask regarding the new area of cooperation in climate change and the green economy. What are the key benefits of the two countries working together on this issue? Can we get more sense on how this partnership will materialise to yield tangible results?
PM Lee Hsien Loong: We have already been working quite closely together in this area and the new pillar will enhance this cooperation, because it will facilitate regular exchanges of information and help us to pave the way to low carbon and sustainability solutions, and hopefully, these are ideas which can be a pathfinder for other countries. Specifically, the initiatives would include knowledge-sharing dialogues on waste management and technology, jointly organised capacity building workshops for ASEAN member states to strengthen the region's capabilities in carbon pricing and carbon markets. We will also be signing an MOU on sustainable aviation, which will deepen information exchange on sustainable aviation, such as sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen, and promote the adoption of sustainable aviation initiatives, which will contribute to efforts to decarbonise the aviation sector, and conduct feasibility and pilot trials for the deployment of low and zero emission fuel solutions.
The context for this is that aviation is one of the major sources of carbon emissions, aviation flying jet fuel, and New Zealand is at the end of the world and Singapore is not so close to Europe either, so for long journeys, the carbon emissions on aviation are a significant consideration. If we are going to go for a low-carbon world, this is something which countries will be focused on, and if we do not have a good solution to it, it will put Singapore, and to some extent, New Zealand also, at a disadvantage. Therefore, we have an interest in working together on it.
Q (Newshub): Did China's increasing influence in the Pacific come up during your discussion today, and how are you each raising with China about its relationship with Russia?
PM Lee: We did discuss developments in the Pacific region, and particularly, China's growing interest in the region. Singapore has longstanding and warm relations with the South Pacific. We are fellow small island states. We share many common interests and concerns like climate change and it is in the interests of all of the countries to have a stable, peaceful and prosperous South Pacific.
Singapore will continue to do our part to support this through capacity building efforts. We have good cooperation with all the South Pacific countries. We are not familiar with the details of the agreement, which has been reported in the Solomon Islands and China, so we are not able to comment on that.
But on China and Russia, we did have a discussion. We do watch the situation in Ukraine and how that will impact China-Russia relations and therefore China-US relations. We both have a vested interest in China-US relations being stable and not being complicated or further sharpened in terms of the hostility or the lack of trust on both sides. We hope that wisdom will prevail and Ukraine will not make things more complicated.
Q (Television New Zealand): This is a question for both Prime Ministers, but perhaps first to Prime Minister Lee. What is your country prepared to compromise on to get the US to rejoin the CPTPP? How important is its participation?
PM Lee: I do not think the US is asking us to make any compromise in order to join the CPTPP. We would dearly love to see them come back, but they have told us quite clearly, it is nothing to do with us. It is just off the table because their politics does not make it possible at present. Meanwhile, they wish to remain engaged in the region by whatever means are feasible politically, but which will demonstrate their continuing commitment to the Asia Pacific and their stake here.
They have been talking about the idea of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and we have said, we support that, because we believe it is good for you to continue to be present in this region, and we hope that we will be able to put as much substance as possible on that Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. I think this is what they are trying to do.
Q (The Straits Times): Earlier, Prime Minister Lee, you mentioned about the other countries who are keen to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement. Could you share a bit more about the timeline and progress on these applications as well as Singapore's position on these other countries joining the agreement?
PM Lee: We welcome the applications to join the DEPA. The ROK has applied, and also China. The DEPA is designed to be an open and inclusive, plurilateral digital agreement. That means more than two partners, but fewer than everybody. We welcome the interest and participation of economies which can commit to all of the DEPA provisions and collaborate in these areas to advance a global digital economy.
It is a pathfinder agreement, so there will be some level of experimentation with like-minded partners. I hope that aspirant economies can embrace this spirit of exploration and identify projects of mutual interest to pursue under the DEPA. I cannot say about the timing because it will depend on how the discussions go and what are the issues which come up, but ideally, of course, you would like the new participants to sign on to everything which is already in the DEPA rather than having to make compromises in order to widen the participation.
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