CNBC's Christine Tan interviewed PM Lee Hsien Loong for CNBC Conversation on 19 October 2017.
A Chinese translation of the transcript is available below.
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Christine Tan, CNBC: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, good to talk to you.
You are heading to the US this weekend to talk to President Donald Trump next week. It will be your first visit to the White House under the Trump Administration. What do you hope to accomplish during this visit?
PM Lee Hsien Loong: I hope to develop our relationship with the Trump Administration and with the United States. It is a very sound relationship that is based on a basic strategic congruence of views about the world and the region, and deep cooperation over many years, in the economic sphere, trade, investments, in the defence and security area – we have trained in the US, US forces use our facilities. We fought together in Desert Storm, and now in the Coalition against ISIS. It is a deep and multi-faceted relationship. With the new administration we have met their principal officers, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, Mr McMaster. And I have met President Trump also in the G20 in Hamburg but this is an opportunity to call on him in the White House, meet him formally and also to meet the officials as well as the people in Congress on the Hill.
CNBC: Any new deals you are hoping to do with the US during your visit?
PM Lee: We are hoping to sign an agreement between SIA and Boeing to buy more aeroplanes.
CNBC: Is that a done deal you think?
PM Lee: I think that is a done deal.
CNBC: This is not the first time, like you said. You have met President Trump on the sidelines of the G20 Summit earlier this year. You and I know he has been called many things.
PM Lee: Yes.
CNBC: How would you describe him in your own words?
PM Lee: I think he is confident of himself. There are things which he wants to do. He has a very set view of the world and of people. And we will work with him. He has been elected, he has a mandate from the American voters and he represents the United States of America.
CNBC: It has been about 10 months since he took office. His election promise of "America First." Do you get a sense that perhaps he has backed down a little from his campaign rhetoric, now that he has time to settle in.
PM Lee: I think every administration has a settling in process. There is always an adjustment between what you can say during a campaign and what you find are the possibilities and imperatives when you win the election, when you enter the Oval Office. The Trump Administration is not different. Perhaps the adjustment is bigger in this case because President Trump represented such a radically different rethink to so many things which the American policy intelligentsia had considered to be shared conventional wisdom but reality and forces of events press down on every president.
CNBC: But do you worry about America turning inwards?
PM Lee: We have long depended on an America which has got a clear sense of its stakes in the world and how much it depends on the world as well as how much the world and its allies and friends depend on the United States of America, and we hope this will continue.
CNBC: Nonetheless, since he took office, one of the first things he did was to pull the US out of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership). Now you have expressed disappointment at the move. Where is TPP minus the US now? Is it still going forward now? What is the status?
PM Lee: We are still talking, the 11 remaining members are still discussing how we can take it forward and we hope we will be able to get somewhere.
CNBC: Who is taking the lead?
PM Lee: I think all the 11 are. Many of the 11 are quite keen. The trade ministers have been meeting and APEC is coming up soon. By the time APEC comes up, perhaps there will be further developments.
CNBC: Is there anything happening behind the scenes? Whether is Singapore, ASEAN or Asia that's working to convince the US to re-join the multilateral trade pact?
PM Lee: I think the President has made his position quite clear. He has made a formal decision and I think we leave it at that. I do not think it is the time yet, to start new initiatives multilaterally with the United States. Perhaps one day the time will come.
CNBC: With the US pullout, is it only natural you think that countries like Singapore and ASEAN now pivot more towards China and its Belt and Road Initiative to compensate for the US abandoning the TPP?
PM Lee: I think we are paying a lot of attention to China, one way or the other. They are a big factor in the world. They are successful and they are growing. They want to grow their influence, and all the countries in Asia want to be their friend and want to benefit from China’s development and success. The TPP would have enhanced our relations across the Pacific as well as the relations and interdependence among all the TPP partners, which included many major economies, the Japanese, the Australians, the United States, NAFTA, Canada and Mexico. There is no TPP but the volume of trade nevertheless is substantial and we hope that it would still be able to grow.
CNBC: The TPP like you alluded to, under Obama was US' pivot to Asia.
PM Lee: It was part of Obama’s policy towards Asia.
CNBC: Where do you see that relationship now? Is that US-Asia pivot still intact?
PM Lee: I am sure the new Administration will not use the same word but I hope they will pay attention to the region because Asia has been a source of strength and prosperity for America. It has many partners here. It has enormous amount of trade here. It has resources from Asia, energy particularly. It has security interests in Asia. The fact that Asia is stable and prospering, and not a troubled part of the world, I think that is a great relief to the United States, to say the least.
CNBC: Can it matter to Asia politically and strategically even though they pulled out of a huge multilateral trade pact like TPP. In other words, they pulled out economically but they still want to be there politically and strategically?
PM Lee: They pulled out of the TPP means that we did not conclude this deal to have a free trade agreement. It does not mean that the existing trade stops. It does not mean that the investment flows are abandoned. It does not mean that Asians are not travelling to America to work, to study and for tourism, or that Americans are not all over the region. These are very big stakes we have in each other and which will continue. We had hoped that with the TPP, that would have given it an extra boost. That was not to be. But we have what we have and we will find other ways to take it forward.
CNBC: When do you think the TPP will come back? Do you have a time frame?
PM Lee: There is a tide in these affairs. If you miss the tide, you may be able to achieve the same objectives one day. It will have to be in a different form, in a completely different way.
CNBC: But it is delayed in the process?
PM Lee: Yes, of course. It will take several years before you can come back to it. The stars have to come back into alignment.
CNBC: We know that President Trump is going to visit Asia next month. He will attend the APEC and the ASEAN-US Summit. What are the chances of his talks getting hijacked by the North Korean issue?
PM Lee: I am sure it will be on the agenda. It is very high on the US agenda; President Trump himself is very seized with it. ASEAN is also focused on this although ASEAN’s influence on these matters must be limited.
CNBC: We have had a war of words, an exchange of words between President Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. Trump has labelled him -- I'm sure you know this -- madman, rocket man -- are you worried about North Korea and its provocations?
PM Lee: Brinkmanship has been part of the North Korean issue for a long time. I mean, it's part of the game, you make a threat, you posture, you make a risky move, you hope that the other side will then do something to placate you, or to give you some advantage in exchange for good behaviour. Then after some time it starts again. So it's not the first time. What is different this time is that North Korea has more nuclear weapons, they've conducted more nuclear tests. They are developing their missile technology, particularly the ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) technology, and so the risks are higher. But the danger is not just the immediate alarums but also the longer term trends, which are set off in Northeast Asia, if things persist in this direction. Because with North Korea going this way, the South Koreans are asking themselves, “What can we do? The Americans have removed their tactical nuclear weapons, from South Korea. Now what do we do? Do we ask the Americans to bring them back? Do we, the South Koreans, think of developing some capability? 60% of South Koreans now think that they should have some kind of nuclear capability. That is in South Korea. Japan, too, which has a very strong anti-nuclear public sentiment, will be forced to think about the possibilities and the unthinkable, and what may they need to do. One former defence minister has said recently, “Perhaps we should ask the Americans to bring their nuclear weapons and put them in Japan. The government said, “No, we shouldn’t.” But these are thoughts which cannot be completely suppressed. In fact if it goes that way, and South Korea and Japan go closer to be in nuclear power or actually cross the threshold. It means, different strategic and security balance in Northeast Asia. More risky, more tense, and the Chinese will be very alarmed. And I do not think it will make for a safer world. There will be implications elsewhere in the world.
CNBC: From where you sit, do you want the US to have more military involvement here in the region?
PM Lee: The US has always had a presence in the region. The Pacific Command is one of their major Commands around the world, with the Seventh Fleet and the other US forces.
CNBC: But at a time like this, do you want them more involved militarily?
PM Lee: They will never have enough military forces from the point of the Admirals and the Generals. What is most important is not just the amount of forces you have in theatre, but the political will and the focus and the political direction which is set in Washington, but also in the United States, that, to know that Asia is important to the US – that the US will cultivate its relations with Asia, that the US will continue to contribute to the peace and stability of Asia.
CNBC: This is something that you want to get out of your visit?
PM Lee: It is something which I say on every visit to the US. It is a message which bears repeating because I think it is the truth, which is not going to change in the short while and which needs to be made a reminder because the US has so many other preoccupations -- domestically and also internationally, in other parts of the world.
CNBC: Prime Minister, earlier on we talked about the US and North Korea. President Trump has long said, and let me quote him, “China is the lynchpin to solving the North Korean crisis.” How would you respond?
PM Lee: China has a major role to play. They share a border with North Korea. They have very high volumes of trade with North Korea... or at least they are a very big part of North Korea’s external trade. And so they have influence over North Korea. But I would not say that the North Koreans will do anything that the Chinese want them to do. Big countries know that small countries can be quite obstreperous.
CNBC: But from your point of view, do you feel that China should play a bigger role in resolving the nuclear crisisin North Korea?
PM Lee: I think that Chinese have complex calculations to balance. They are living there with the neighbour. They do not want to destabilise the neighbour. At the same time, I think they cannot be at all happy with the way things are going with nuclear tests and with missile tests. It must worry them a great deal.
CNBC: Things were a little bit tense last year between Singapore and China over some comments made over the South China Sea. A few months later, you had to deal with the issue of Singapore’s military vehicles getting impounded in Hong Kong. Now last month, I know you just returned from a trip to Beijing, where you met with President Xi Jinping and some top Chinese leaders. How would you describe relations with China now?
PM Lee: We are good. We are forward looking. We are two countries and sovereign countries, so there will always be issues where we do not completely see eye to eye. But fundamentally there are no basic conflicts in our perspectives and we both wish to do more together bilaterally and also in the context of ASEAN. Because next year, Singapore is Chairman of ASEAN. And also for these couple of years, Singapore is the ASEAN coordinator for relations with China. So we both want to make the relationship prosper. In fact, there's a lot we are doing together. Singapore has big investments in China, all over, in many of the provinces. The Chinese are growing their activities in Singapore, too – their banks are here, thousands of Chinese companies are here. With the Belt and Road, I think there is opportunity for them to use Singapore as a base for financing, for regional headquarters, for all sorts of activities. And I see no reason why that should not happen.
CNBC: Just to be clear, relations between Singapore and China are not strained over differences in the South China Sea?
PM Lee: Every country will have... every pair of countries will have issues where, "I wish you'd agreed with me. You wish I'd agreed with you." But we remain good friends, and it is so with Singapore and the US. It is so with Singapore and the People’s Republic of China.
CNBC: But these issues that you have had to deal with China last year, any lessons learned for Singapore?
PM Lee: We understand each other’s position clearer now. I mean, Singapore’s position has always been …
CNBC: It was not clear before?
PM Lee: It is clear. But events happen, and then we react to events and then the positions have to be restated, clarified. In the case of the South China Sea, our position has always been that we are not the claimant state. We have no claims. So we do not take sides on those claims: who owns which island. But we do have an interest in freedom of navigation in the rule of international law, in the peaceful resolution of dispute, and in ASEAN having a role in an issue which is this important in our neighbourhood. I think that bears repeating.
CNBC: Let us talk more about what you said about not taking sides. Let me quote you in an article and get your reaction, "The shifting geopolitical climate is making it more difficult for the Lion City to live with a Giant Eagle on one side, and Dragon on the other." Prime Minister, is Singapore in a conundrum?
PM Lee: It is never easy to be a small country next to a big neighbour. If you have one big neighbour only, that is not easy to manage. If you have two big neighbours, in some ways you have more friends but in other ways you have to make more difficult choices.
CNBC: But is it getting difficult to manage that relation between the US and China?
PM Lee: It depends on how the US relationship with China develops. If that stays stable and good, then it is easier for Singapore. It that becomes strained or harsher, then it is harder for us.
CNBC: What do you mean by "harder"? You have to pick a side?
PM Lee: If there are tensions between America and China, we will be asked to pick a side. It may not be directly, but you will get the message that: we would like you to be with us and are you with us. If not, does that mean you're against us? And that is to put it gently.
CNBC: Which side would you pick?
PM Lee: We hope not to have to pick sides. We have such substantial relations with both. China is our biggest trading partner, America is somewhere near there. And very important partners in many other areas as well including security. We hope we will be able to maintain these relationships.
CNBC: Singapore, like you said, is going to be chair of ASEAN next year. There are some concerns that China is and will lean on Singapore to keep ASEAN calm over the South China Sea. How would you respond?
PM Lee: As Chairman, we are not the Commander-in-Chief. We are the honest broker. We are coordinating ASEAN, we are bringing the parties together in order to help to the degree that we can to produce an ASEAN consensus because ASEAN works by consensus. Unless all the countries go along and most of the countries agree, you cannot take an ASEAN position. That is all the more so in the case of the difficult issue like the South China Sea where the strategic interests of the different ASEAN countries are not entirely the same. Our position as Singapore is not the same as that of the claimant states because we are not a claimant state. The position of a country which is like Laos, which is land-locked and has a border with China, cannot be the same as the position of the Philippines, which is an island nation, an archipelagic nation and has a claim on the atolls and reefs. If you look at Myanmar, it does not even have a shoreline on the South China Sea – it is on the Andaman Sea. So the interests do not all exactly, fundamentally align, and therefore when you make a consensus, that consensus can only be to the degree that these countries do share a common perspective. As the chairman of ASEAN, we will try and foster the process of coming to such a consensus.
CNBC: Still on China. Earlier this week, we had the 19th Communist Party Congress and we have had China of course pledging further liberalisation of its economy. We know that Singapore is one of the largest foreign investors in China. What are you exploring, what are you working on that could see Singapore playing a bigger role in China’s development?
PM Lee: There are the private sector projects which are all over China. We have real estates, we have developments of shopping malls, we have got service apartments, we have got retail, we have got infrastructure. People with power stations, water treatment plants, waste treatment plants. We have got all kinds of service projects, tourism. So that is on the private sector. On the government side, we have the G-to-G projects. We have Suzhou (Industrial Park), we have Tianjin (Eco-city), now we have Chongqing (Connectivity Initiative). Chongqing is the latest and we are working very hard at it. So that is a major focus and there is a very high-level Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), which is chaired by two Deputy Prime Ministers overseeing it. So that is a major focus of cooperation. But we also have cooperation in the education field, culturally, and many other areas.
CNBC: So Singapore is well entrenched in China.
PM Lee: Trade too – we are talking about an upgrade to our China- Singapore FTA (Free Trade Agreement).
CNBC: Could your next big partnership, big project, involve the One Belt One Road infrastructure project?
PM Lee: Actually the Chongqing project involves the One Belt One Road because Chongqing is in the western part of China. It is the beginning of the “Belt”, the Silk Road economic belt as the Chinese call it, where the railway starts and then from Chongqing it goes all the way to central Asia and reaches Western Europe. The specific project which we are pursuing in Chongqing, which is called the Southern Corridor, is very much linked to One Belt One Road because it starts in Chongqing. The idea is to develop the rail corridor from Chongqing down to Guangxi BeiBuWan, and therefore provide a faster, more economical connection for western China out to the Maritime Silk Road and out to the world. So instead of travelling all the way down the Yangtze River to Shanghai and then doubling back and going to Europe, you can just go down to Guangxi, take a ship, you are in Singapore. From Singapore’s PSA Container Port, you can be in anywhere in the world economically and quickly. So the Chongqing project is very much related to the Belt and Road. In fact, it links up the “Belt”, which is the land route, and the “Road”, which is the sea route.
CNBC: Any more projects like Chongqing?
PM Lee: Chongqing is a very big project, so we will get this one done first. But there are smaller projects all over China which are prospering and I think will benefit from our good relationship.
CNBC: You have been Prime Minister since 2004, lots of questions about political succession and who is going to be next to lead the country.
PM Lee: Yes.
CNBC: Can you share with us, what you are doing behind the scenes to find the next Prime Minister?
PM Lee: I have explained this quite often, and quite publicly that I have assembled a team, a strong team of younger ministers. They have to establish themselves, among themselves, they have to work out their relationships and assess one another. Publicly, they have to gain the confidence of the public and show the public what they are able to do. In time, they will have to come to a consensus as to who should be leading the team into the next stage. Beyond me. The process has taken some time. We have been bringing in people in every election – 2006, 2011, 2015. So it has advanced, we will continue to bring people in to reinforce the team, but who is to emerge? Well, time will tell. It cannot be a very long time, because the clock ticks and waits for no man.
CNBC: But from what you know, are you close to finding the next Prime Minister?
PM Lee: I think it is very likely that he is in the cabinet already. But which one? That will take a while to work out.
CNBC: Here in Singapore lots of concerns about technological disruption impact on jobs, not to mention, competition coming from foreign labour. What are you doing to address these issues?
PM Lee: That has been the subject of a lot of attention. We have a Committee on the Future Economy, chaired by Heng Swee Keat, Finance Minister, to develop strategies to deal with these challenges. The Committee has reported and we are now following up to implement the strategies. We are facing the same challenges as many other developed countries, which is that change is rapid, that is disruptive, that we need to master new technologies, and we need to be able to do it with people who are already in the workforce – middle-aged, and not just young people in school. So, getting our education system to produce people with the right skills is an important part of it. And that we have always been doing. But to upgrade and refresh the skills of the people who are already in the workforce, so that you can with confidence, change your career and take up a different job and maintain your employability, be still able to find work. I think that is something that which we have put a lot more emphasis on in recent years. We call it SkillsFuture. And it is not just running courses but having the framework to have the courses fit into one another, be recognised by the employers, and to fit in with your work, your career and your training, so that it is complementary and it is not a completely divergent activity.
So that is one important part. The other important part of it is to get the industries and the different sectors of the economy up to speed, and to cope with the transformation. You have here to deal in a very tangible and concrete way with individual industries, individual firms, and not just in a stratospheric, macro, philosophical approach. You need to have a specific sense for each industry -- what are the skills which are needed, what are the market areas which can be exploited, what are the changes which the companies need to make, how can we help the companies to achieve these changes. And if there has to be some rationalisation, how can we help them to shake out and make it less painful. So, we are going industry by industry with transformation maps. And we are planning to make 23 of these transformation maps; we have already got a good number of them, and we will work closely with the industries to help to make this happen. If you take a laissez-faire approach and say I just fold my arms, the Government does not know any better, that it all sort itself out, but we do not think that that is the right thing to do, and we think that the Government has a constructive and active role to play, and we will do that – working with the industry and fostering the change rather than obstructing it.
CNBC: Singapore is expected to grow two to three per cent this year. What is your vision for Singapore beyond that? Can you put forward a compelling vision for Singapore and its next stage of development? Where do you see the city state?
PM Lee: First we would like to continue to grow. Two to three per cent is by developed countries’ standard, a very significant level. We would like to be able to continue doing that over the next 10 to 15 years. If we can do that for 10 to 15 years, then you can make a very substantial change, and the quality of life and standards of living of the population. But, we also measure ourselves against other economies, other societies, other cities. How are other people living? What have they done to improve their lives? Have we been able to do the same or better? Today, I think Singapore is not a bad place to live. If you have to choose a place to work, to bring up your family, to fulfill not just your economic needs but a more satisfying, comprehensive view of what you can do with your life, I think in Singapore you can do a lot of that. There is something you can achieve, not just to feed yourself but more. In 10, 20 years’ time, what is that standard which is expected? I am quite sure that they will look at New York, or London, or Beijing, or Shanghai, or Sydney, or Mumbai. It will not be what it is today. It will be something new, there will be new technology, there will be new ways of doing things and there will be new aspirations.
CNBC: Singapore will be there right on top?
PM Lee: We want to be there, and our job, the government's job is to help Singapore stay at the top.
CNBC: Let us talk more about the government's job because Singapore has often been described as a nanny state. If I were to quote your late father, he had a great quote. He said, “If Singapore is a nanny state, then I’m proud to have fostered one”. For many, Singapore is already a developed economy. Do you think it still needs a babysitter, a nanny?
PM Lee: If you ask a Singaporean – on one hand, they will say let us do our own thing. On the other hand, whenever an issue comes up, they will ask, “What is the government doing about it?” And they have very high expectations of what the government should be doing, which is right because they voted for the government and they expect the government to be able to perform. So we have to keep that balance. No government prospers by saying I do not need to do anything and just by being there, we have made the country thrive. You have to have an idea of what you need to do, what needs to be fixed, what can be improved, what we should now imagine together, which we did not previously imagine, and having thought of it, decide to do it. That is the government's role.
CNBC: It has been more than two years since your father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, passed away. What is life like for you, post-Lee Kuan Yew.
PM Lee: Life goes on. I think Mr Lee prepared well for the day when he would not be here, and he made sure that Singapore would be able to go on without him. He handed over as Prime Minister in 1990. 25 years before he died. So I think we miss him, we think of him often, we read his old speeches and we say, “Well, that is still relevant to us today”. The way he puts it still has a ring to it. At the same time, we have to build on that and move forward. Because if we just remained with what he had imagined and what he had done and nothing more, I think he would have been very disappointed.
CNBC: If he were alive today, what advice do you think he would have given you?
PM Lee: I think he would have said, “Press on, move on! Do not be looking at the rear view mirror. Remember what has happened, understand how you got here, but look forward and press forward”.
CNBC: You can hear his voice in your head.
PM Lee: Yes, you can imagine that.
CNBC: Earlier this year, you had a dispute with your siblings over your father’s estate. For many, it was a rare moment in Singapore’s politics where something so private, involving the founding Lee family was made so public. Have you and your siblings managed to resolve the issue?
PM Lee: The matter is in abeyance. I am not sure that it is solved.
CNBC: Are you on talking terms with your siblings?
PM Lee: We have not recently communicated.
CNBC: How are relations with your siblings now? Do you hope to patch them?
PM Lee: I think they are where they are. Perhaps one day when emotions have subsided, some movement will be possible. These things take time.
CNBC: Are you sad?
PM Lee: Yes, of course.
CNBC: Finally, you have until January 2021 to call the next election. Could it happen in the next two years?
PM Lee: Yes, of course, any time.
CNBC: So we should be prepared.
PM Lee: We always need to be prepared.
CNBC: As Prime Minister, you said you would step down before the next elections.
PM Lee: No, I did not say that.
CNBC: I would repeat that. As Prime Minister, you said you would step down after the next elections, before you turn 70. You are 65 now. Are you ready to step down in the next couple of years?
PM Lee: I am ready. What I need to make sure of is somebody is ready to take over from me.
CNBC: Is there somebody in the wings you think?
PM Lee: As I said, there are people in the wings, the question is who it would be and that would need to be decided.
CNBC: How will you ensure it is a smooth power transition?
PM Lee: By building up the team so that when I leave, the rest of the team will be able to work and carry things forward. They are doing that by being hands-on, by having responsibility for major policies, by taking charge of important, spiky Ministries.
CNBC: But you will still be there behind-the-scenes?
PM Lee: That is up to the next Prime Minister.
CNBC: What sort of legacy do you hope to leave behind?
PM Lee: That is not for me to say. I am just trying to do my job day by day.
CNBC: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, thank you so much for talking to me on CNBC Conversation.
PM Lee: Thank you.
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Christine Tan, CNBC: 李显龙总理，您好！本周末您将飞往美国，并在下周与特朗普总统会面。这是特朗普政府上任以来，您首次访问白宫。您希望此行可以取得哪些收获？
李显龙总理: 我希望能够推进我们与美国以及特朗普政府之间的关系。新美两国享有非常牢固的双边关系 —— 在全球和区域的战略性课题上，两国的看法是一致的；在经济、贸易与投资、防务与安全方面，两国多年来也有深入的合作。在防务合作方面，我们的士兵在美国进行军训，而美军也使用新加坡的设施。我们曾在沙漠风暴行动中为美国和联军提供后勤支援，而如今也通过多国联盟方式，一同打击伊斯兰国组织。两国的关系是既深刻又广泛的。特朗普政府新行政团队上任后，我们已经和美国的主要官员，如国务卿蒂勒森、国防部长马蒂斯，以及国家安全顾问麦克马斯特见过面。我和特朗普总统已在德国汉堡举行的二十国集团峰会上会过面。不过这次的访问，让我有机会正式到白宫拜访特朗普总统以及其他美国官员和国会议员。
李总理: 大家都在关注中国的各种发展，它在世界格局中扮演举足轻重的角色。中国在许多方面取得了成功，并且持续在蓬勃发展。中国希望能扩大自身的影响力，亚洲各国都希望能成为中国的朋友，并从中国的发展及成功中获益。 TPP成员国包括许多主要经济体，如日本、澳洲、美国、北美自由贸易区、加拿大和墨西哥，协定若落实会进一步加强太平洋周边国家之间的关系，以及所有TPP伙伴国之间的紧密联系。尽管目前没有TPP，相关国家之间的贸易量仍然十分可观，我们都希望贸易量还能继续增长。
李总理: 边缘策略长久以来一直是朝鲜的部分战略，也是博弈的一部分。你发出威胁、摆个姿态并走一步险棋，希望对方会因此做些什么来安抚你，或者给你一点好处以换取你良好的行为。然后过了一段时间，又重施故技。所以，这并非第一次，跟过往不同的是，朝鲜现在拥有更多的核武器，进行了更多核试炸。他们正在发展其导弹科技，尤其是洲际弹道导弹科技，所以风险也更高了。 但危险还不仅于此，如果势态持续这样发展下去，我们除了得面对当前的风险，还必须担忧东北亚的长期发展趋势。这是因为如果朝鲜一意孤行，韩国必定会问：那我们可以做些什么？美国撤离了原本部署在韩国的战略武器，现在我们应该怎么办？要求美国把这些武器搬回来？还是韩国自己开发这方面的能力？在韩国，有60% 的韩国人认为韩国应该发展核武能力。日本向来公开反核，但朝鲜的行为也会迫使日本思考各种可能性和可能需要作出的最坏打算。日本的一名前国防部长最近曾说：“或许我们应该要求美国把他们的核武器安置在日本。” 政府的回应是： “不行，我们不能这样做。” 但这些想法是不能完全被抑制的。事实上，如果局势真的这样发展，韩国和日本发展为核武器拥有国，跨越了界限，这将改变东北亚的战略和安全平衡。局势会变得紧张，而中国也会感到不安。我不认为这样的局面会让世界变得更安全，反而会对世界其他地区造成影响。
CNBC: 总理先生，我们之前谈到了美国和朝鲜。特朗普总统很早以前曾说过：“中国是解决朝鲜危机的关键。” 你怎么看这句话？
李总理: 新中关系良好，同时也与时俱进。新加坡和中国是两个不同国家，各自主权独立，因此肯定会在一些课题上持有不同看法。不过，在主要课题上，我们看待事情的观点没有根本的冲突。两国都希望加强双边合作，以及促进中国与亚细安之间的合作，因为新加坡明年将担任亚细安轮值主席国，这几年来也一直是亚细安—中国关系的协调国。两国都希望双方的关系会越来越好。事实上，我们已经在各方面进行合作。新加坡在全中国， 包括多个省份都有巨额投资，而中国企业在新加坡也日益活跃。他们在这里设立银行，上千家的中国公司也在新加坡落户。随着中国一带一路倡议的开展，中国企业可以利用新加坡作为融资、设立区域总部及进行各项活动的基地。我认为这绝对是可行的。
李总理: 大家都清楚彼此的立场，只不过当发生一些事件，我们就必须作出回应，并且也有必要重申和澄清本身的立场。就南中国海事件而言，我们的立场始终如一，那就是我们不是主权声索国，所以我们不选边站，对于哪个岛屿应该归属谁，我们都保持中立。不过，按照国际法享有航行自由、和平解决纠纷，以及亚细安能够在这个重要的区域课题上发挥作用， 攸关我们的利益。我认为新加坡必须不断重申这个立场。
CNBC: 诚如您所说，新加坡明年将作为亚细安轮值主席国。一般担心，中国会借此对新加坡施压，要求各亚细安成员国在 “南中国海”问题上保持冷静。您对此有何看法？
李总理: 作为轮值主席国，新加坡并不是指挥官，而是“公正的中间人”。我们扮演协调的角色，尽可能协助各方达成共识。亚细安遵循凡事取得共识的决策模式，每项决策都必须由各成员国附和，并得到大部分成员国的同意，才能成为亚细安的立场。 尤其是“南中国海”这类棘手的问题，亚细安各国的战略利益都不尽相同。新加坡的立场和主权声索国的立场就不一致，因为我们不是南中国海领土的主权声索国。内陆国家，如老挝与中国边境相连接，他们的立场与菲律宾这个宣称拥有南中国海环礁和珊瑚礁主权的群岛国家就不一样。如果你再看看缅甸，这个位于安达曼海、海岸线根本不会触及南中国海的国家，立场也会不同。 既然亚细安各成员国的战略利益，从根本上，不完全一致，那我们就只能针对各国拥有共同观点的方面达成共识。新加坡，作为亚细安轮值主席国，会尽力促成这个达成共识的过程。
CNBC: 继续谈中国。中共第十九次全国代表大会（十九大）本周开幕，中国承诺进一步开放经济。我们知道新加坡是中国最大的外资投资国之一。 你正在探讨或已经着手筹备什么项目，让新加坡在中国的发展进程中扮演更重要的角色？
李总理: 在私人企业方面，新加坡的项目遍布中国，其中包括：房地产、购物中心、服务公寓、零售和基础建设。除了发电厂、污水处理厂和垃圾处理厂，我们开发各个服务领域的项目，当然也包括旅游业。 至于新中政府间的合作项目，我们先有苏州工业园区和中新天津生态城，第三个政府间的合作项目则落户重庆（中新（重庆）战略性互联互通示范项目）。这是新中两国接下来合作的焦点，由两位副总理主导监督，也将是新中双边合作联合委员会（JCBC）会议中的重要议程项目。新中政府在教育、文化等多方面都有合作。贸易方面，新中自由贸易协定升级版的谈判也正在进行中。
李总理: 我曾多次公开说明，我目前已经建立了一支由较年轻部长组成的优秀团队。他们得建立自己的声望。在团队里，他们得培养合作关系和互相评估。他们也必须赢得公众的信心，并向公众证明他们的能力。最终，他们得取得共识，选出继我之后，能够领导团队迈向下个阶段的人。这个过程已经进行了一段时间，我们在2006、2011和2015年的大选引进新人加入团队。我们会继续引进新人来强化团队。谁会脱颖而出? 时间到了我们自然会知晓。但这绝对不会是太久以后的事，因为时间已经不多了。
李总理: 很多人都在关注这些课题。我们成立了由财政部长王瑞杰领导的未来经济委员会，来制定应对这些挑战的策略。我们目前在跟进并推行委员会所提呈的建议。我们所面对的挑战和其他发达国家一样，那就是得面对急速而且具颠覆性的改变，而要做到这点，我们得掌握新科技。我们得和还在求学的年轻人，以及已经在工作的中年人士一起应对这项挑战。其中一项应对方法，就是通过教育培育出拥有适当技能的人员。这一点，我们一直都很注重。近几年，我们也开始强调提升在职人士的技能的重要性，这能让他们有信心地更换就业跑道，并且具备继续受雇的技能。我们称这个计划为技能创前程。这不仅仅是个开办课程的计划，我们成立了一个框架，确保课程受到雇主的认可，并且在雇员的工作、事业和培训方面起着相辅相成的作用。 这是重要的环节之一。另一个重要的环节是协助不同产业更快地适应经济转型。我们得给予个别行业和个别商家具体和明确地帮助，而不是从一个宏观、策略和哲学性的角度来处理。我们必须了解每个行业的独特性— 如他们所需的专业技能、哪一些市场有进军潜能、个别商家得进行什么样的改变、政府能如何协助这些企业进行这些改变等。要如何向这些企业解释必须转型的理由，如何协助他们摆脱现有的局限，顺利转型？我们因此拟出了针对各行各业的转型蓝图，并拟定针对23个产业的转型蓝图。我们已经推出了好几份蓝图，协助不同产业转型。我们认为，政府完全不干预、任由经济自行发展不是正确的做法。我们认为政府能扮演积极和具建设性的角色，因此我们决定同各行各业紧密合作，应对改变，而不是阻挠改变所能带来的发展。
CNBC: 新加坡今年预计将取得2-3%的经济增长。您对新加坡的未来有什么展望呢? 您是否能和我们分享您对新加坡和新加坡下一阶段的发展有什么样的愿景？
李总理: 首先，我们希望能够持续取得增长。按照发达国家的标准，2-3%的增长是一个可观的水平，而我们希望能在未来的10至15年继续取得这样的增长。如果我们能够在未来的10至15年继续取得2-3%的增长，我们就能够带来实质改变，使人民的生活质量和生活水平有所提高。不过，我们也会和其他经济体、社会和城市作比较，比如它们的人民过着什么样的生活、他们如何改善自己的生活，以及我们是否也正采取同样的措施，或者做得比他们还好。 我觉得今天的新加坡是一个不错的居住地方，人们可以在这里安居乐业、养儿育女。你不仅能够满足个人的经济需求，还可以清楚知道自己能够实现什么样的人生。在新加坡，你可以实现很多事情，不只是温饱而已。在未来的10至20年，我们希望达到什么样的水准？我相信大家会以纽约、伦敦、北京、上海、悉尼或孟买作为标准。到时候，新加坡肯定不会和现在一样。我们会看到新的事物，我们将会有新的科技和新的做事方式，而人们也会有新的期望。
CNBC: 让我们来谈谈政府的工作。新加坡经常被比喻为 “保姆国家”。您的父亲生前有一句名言：如果新加坡是一个保姆国家，我会以身为保姆为荣。对很多人来说，新加坡已经是一个发达国家。您认为新加坡还需要一个保姆吗？
李总理: 日子还是要继续。 我想李先生为他离开之后的情况，做了充分的安排， 确保新加坡在没有他的情况下，还是会继续向前挺进。他在1990年，也就是他离世之前的25年，就已经卸下总理职务。我们十分想念他， 我们会重读他过去的讲稿，当中许多的所思所想，依然适用于我们今时今日的情况，对我们依然具有提醒作用。与此同时， 我们必须在他所建立的基础上，进一步向前发展。如果我们仅仅只是停留在他所设想的范围内，推断他会采取怎样的做法，没有其他的长进，我想他会十分失望。
CNBC: 让我重复问题。作为总理，您说过会在下次选举过后，也就是在您70岁之前交棒。您现在已65岁， 是否已经准备在未来几年卸下总理一职？
李总理: 正如我所说， 内阁里已有这样的人选，问题是谁会是最适合的人选，而这就需要由内阁团队来决定。
李总理: 谢谢。 .
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