Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Lunch in honour of His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar on 24 August 2023.
Your Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar
Ladies and gentlemen
May I wish a very warm welcome to PM Sheikh Mohammed and his delegation. This is his first visit to Singapore as Prime Minister, but he is no stranger to Singapore. We first met in 2017, when he accompanied His Highness Emir Sheikh Tamim to Singapore as Foreign Minister, and he is still simultaneously Foreign Minister. He has made several more visits since. Happy to welcome back an old friend.
Singapore and Qatar enjoy excellent relations, anchored by strong ties between our leaders and our peoples. I warmly recall visiting Doha in 2006, it was my first visit to the Middle East. I visited again two years later to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council - Singapore FTA (GSFTA). It was the GCC’s first FTA with a non-Middle Eastern country. Over the years, I have met many of Qatar’s leaders. His Highness Sheikh Tamim recently hosted President Halimah Yacob when she made a State Visit to Qatar this June. President Halimah deeply appreciated Sheikh Tamim’s gracious hospitality and his support for closer relations between our countries. She met many Singaporeans in Qatar who spoke well of their life there.
Our economic relationship is also substantial and dynamic. Qatar is Singapore’s third largest trading partner in the Middle East, while we are Qatar’s sixth largest trading partner in the world. And we are happy to be the regional hub for the Qatar Investment Authority. We also cooperate well in other areas such as energy, food security, cybersecurity and innovation.
As small states, Singapore and Qatar share many common interests and challenges. We recognise the importance of a rules-based international order that respects the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states. And we work hard to prove that size does not dictate success. We both rely on an open and inclusive and multilateral system. And hence we supported Qatar’s accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation last year. We also welcome Qatar’s growing engagement of Southeast Asia. On our part, Singapore will work with Qatar to strengthen our engagement of the Gulf as well as ties between ASEAN and the GCC.
Both our regions are undergoing significant transformation. Like its neighbours, Qatar has embarked on major development plans. And hosted many major sports events including a most successful FIFA World Cup last year. Meanwhile, Southeast Asia’s growth prospects are promising. ASEAN’s combined economy would make it the 5th largest in the world and ASEAN countries have a large, young, dynamic population. These developments create new opportunities which we should pursue. We signed several agreements today in the areas of social development, water-related research and education. Singapore can be Qatar’s base as it strengthens its economic engagement of Southeast Asia. I hope the High Level Joint Committee (HLJC) tomorrow will spur stronger B2B and G2G collaboration. It will be the 8th Meeting of the HLJC and it has a full agenda on the table. I look forward to commemorating 40 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries in 2024, next year. And to continuing our discussions with the Prime Minister over lunch.
Shukran La-Kum (thank you everyone)!
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