PM Lee Hsien Loong at Joint Press Conference Q&A with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz
Transcript Of Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the Federal Chancellery, Vienna On 17 October 2018.
Q: (Austrian Press Agency) My question is to you, Prime Minister. As you know, Brexit is the current most important topic in European politics. One of the reasons why the Britains have decided to leave the European Union is that they imagined to be able to cut better trade deals with other parts of the world. As you are signing a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, the question to you, would you advise British to stay in the customs union or do you think they could do a better deal with your country if they were to leave?
PM Lee Hsien Loong: It is always easier to make an agreement with one country instead of one organisation of 28 countries. Whether that means it is better for the British to go at it alone and therefore be able to conclude the FTAs (Free Trade Agreements), but forego the advantages of being in the EU or whether it is better for them to be in the EU, accept the restrictions but also benefit from the wider market and the integration, I think that is a matter for the British Prime Minister, Cabinet and voters to decide.
Q: (SPH) My question is for both leaders. Your remarks indicate that Austria and Singapore have very much in common. Besides digitalisation, what are the areas of cooperation that the two countries are looking at? Also, as Chair of ASEAN and the EU, how can the two countries play a stronger role in making sure that the global system remains committed to free trade and multilateralism?
PM Lee: Digitalisation, we signed the Memorandum of Understanding today. I think it is the first step towards enhancing our cooperation but there are many other areas where we can develop our contacts. When the Chancellor came to Singapore, he brought a big business delegation with him. As you have heard, we have a significant amount of Austrian investments in Singapore today. Various companies, tech companies often, AMS, Austrian Microtronic Systems, has 7,000 employees in Singapore. They make chips and assemble them together with cameras. We have other companies in Singapore like Erber, which is Austrian as well, and I think many more Austrian companies with technology and potential. Particularly the middle-sized companies who are not so familiar with the far east yet. If we can reach out to them, and engage them to come and understand what the opportunities are, I think there is a lot of potential. We do this with German middle-sized companies, for example, and we have had quite some success and we see no reason why we should not be able to do that with Austrian companies.
There will also be opportunities for cooperation in R&D between our research institutes and the Austrian ones, and cooperation between our universities and Austrian universities. I think these are all things which we can pursue progressively because we are both not very big countries but countries which need to look outwards and need to work with like-minded partners in order to develop our human potential, in order to connect ourselves to the world and in particular to another region which has considerable economic vibrancy and great potential for fruitful cooperation.
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