Transcript of remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in on 12 July 2018.
President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I first offer my warmest welcome to President Moon and his delegation on this State Visit to Singapore.
This is President Moon first visit to Singapore as President and a first State Visit from the ROK to Singapore in 15 years. President Moon and I last met in Manila on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in November 2017. I am happy to report that at our meeting today, we had a good discussion on expanding bilateral and regional cooperation.
Our economic ties are strong and growing. Last year, overall trade was S$45.4 billion. We were among each other’s top ten trading partners.
President Moon and I discussed ways to step up our economic cooperation. Our agencies are exploring new areas of cooperation, such as SMEs and startups, environmental cooperation, fintech and cybersecurity. We would also like to make progress on existing areas of cooperation, for example, trade. I expressed the hope to the President that we could hold the next implementation review of the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement soon. It will benefit both our economies and also show the international community that our countries are committed to free and open trade. We also discussed strengthening our connectivity through air travel.
I hope we can expand our air services agreement – third and fourth freedom, Singapore and Busan for example, but also fifth freedom, beyond Incheon and Singapore to further destinations. These steps will support President Moon’s New Southern Policy.
We witnessed the exchange of six Memoranda of Understanding covering the environment, free trade, smart grids, the fourth industrial revolution, Small and Medium Enterprises, and investments. These agreements build upon our existing cooperation and mechanisms but also our complementary strengths. ROK is strong in technology and innovation, while Singapore is well-connected to ASEAN and the region. Singapore companies have growing interest in the ROK, in areas like real estate, manufacturing, electronics, precision engineering, transport, food and information and communications technology. We also welcome Korean companies to take advantage of Singapore to expand into the ASEAN region.
Korea’s economic relations with the ASEAN countries are good. There is also good cooperation in culture and tourism, and last year the ASEAN Culture House in Busan was inaugurated.
I am glad ROK is increasing engagement of the region. We discussed possibilities for growing ASEAN-ROK relations, for example, by upgrading the ASEAN-ROK Free Trade Area and doing an ASEAN-Korea Air Services Agreement. We also appreciate greatly the ROK’s strong support in ASEAN’s community-building efforts.
The ROK has also been a constructive partner in RCEP. We look forward to substantially concluding the negotiations by the end of this year.
Singapore is currently the ASEAN Chair, and the theme of our Chairmanship is “Resilience and Innovation”. One major project to promote innovation is the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN), which is an inclusive and collaborative platform that will promote partnerships between ASEAN Member States, and together with ASEAN’s external partners, promote smart city development efforts. The ROK is a leader in smart and sustainable cities – Seoul, particularly, is very advanced – so we are heartened by its enthusiastic support for ASCN activities
Finally, we discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula. I expressed to President Moon my appreciation of the ROK government’s initiatives, including his personal efforts in encouraging dialogue with the North.
Constructive dialogue is necessary in order to achieve peace and stability in the Peninsula. Singapore has been happy to play a role by hosting the recent US-DPRK Summit.
We wish the ROK and all other parties involved in the process success. It is a long road ahead, with many more challenges to overcome but I hope the Singapore meeting has set things moving in the right direction.
I look forward to welcoming President Moon back to Singapore in November for the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings, and to continue working with him to further deepen cooperation. He invited me to visit South Korea; I was happy to accept and look forward to taking it up at a convenient time. Thank you.
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