Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the Federal Chancellery, Vienna on 17 October 2018. PM Lee was on an Official Visit to Vienna, Austria from 17-18 October 2018.
Thank you Chancellor Kurz for your very warm welcome and very gracious hospitality to me and my delegation. I am delighted to be here for my first visit to this very beautiful, historic and charming city. I would also like to offer my congratulations to the people and Government of Austria as you celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Austria this year.
I am meeting the Chancellor again for the third time this year to continue the interesting discussions which we held in Singapore just over a month ago.
Singapore and Austria share similar perspectives on many issues, embracing openness to free trade, multilateralism, and the rule of law. There is a great deal we can do together to bring our countries and our regions closer.
I am particularly happy that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Singapore will be signed in Brussels on Friday. Singapore appreciates Austria’s consistent and strong support for the agreement. Once in force, it will further strengthen economic ties between Singapore and Austria and set them within a broader context. Today, there are already 220 Austrian companies in Singapore, with investments amounting to over 2 billion dollars. Many of these are high quality, high tech companies operating in Singapore but connecting us out of Singapore to cover a big Asian footprint.
As small countries that rely on human talent, we also have a common aim of cultivating a culture of innovation and productivity, and using technology to upgrade our economies and improve our peoples’ lives. Like Austria, Singapore is pushing forward with digitalisation and we appreciate working with like-minded partners to share experiences and exchange ideas. Today, we sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Digitalisation and Information and Communications and Technology Cooperation. This is a first step towards more collaboration in this exciting new area.
Singapore is the current Chair of ASEAN and also the current coordinator of ASEAN-EU relations. We will continue to work closely with Austria during its presidency of the EU Council. The EU-Singapore FTA can be a pathfinder to an EU-ASEAN FTA. ASEAN and the EU are also working towards concluding a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement which will be the first bloc-to-bloc aviation agreement to connect over one billion people living in our two regions.
ASEAN is also working towards a Digital Integration Framework to deepen regional connectivity. We should also explore bloc-to-bloc cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in this area.
Singapore is well-positioned and eager to support European and Austrian companies’ ventures into Asia. Likewise, Austria serves as a gateway for Singapore and Asia’s investments in the Central and Eastern European region. I look forward to exchanging ideas and insights with the Austrian business community. Tonight, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber will be hosting a roundtable and I will have the opportunity to talk to some distinguished Austrian entrepreneurs, businesspeople and I hope we will be able to spark off some new ideas and new collaborations.
We also hope to see greater cultural collaboration between our countries. Singapore has much to gain from Austria’s rich heritage of arts and music. Many Singaporeans travel to Austria every year, not just for the scenery or the skiing, but to enjoy the vibrant arts and music scene. Perhaps one day, we will have a joint performance of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Once again, I would like to thank the Chancellor for hosting me and my delegation and I look forward to working with him to enhance our partnership. Very soon, we will be doing that at the Asia-Europe meeting which will be held in Brussels later this week. Thank you.
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