PM Lee Hsien Loong's remarks at the Singapore-Australia Leaders’ Summit Joint Press Conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on 16 March 2018. PM Lee was on an Official Visit to Sydney, Australia.
Prime Minister Turnbull, Ministers, journalists, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his very warm and generous hospitality. The last time I was in Sydney was 2012, and the last time I was in Australia was for our first Leaders’ Summit when we signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in 2016.
Our bilateral relations, as you have heard from Prime Minister Turnbull, are excellent. Our friendship is underpinned by strong cooperation and strategic convergence. We had very good discussions this morning on a wide range of issues, including regional developments and the importance of Australia’s continued engagement with ASEAN. We explored synergies and opportunities to work together between Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship and the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, for example, on Smart Cities Development.
I also thank Prime Minister Turnbull for Australia’s leadership in shepherding the TPP-11 or now called the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) across the finishing line.
Singapore and Australia have been like-minded partners on promoting trade liberalisation and many other things. We worked closely together to launch APEC and to conclude the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (free trade agreement), which remains ASEAN’s most progressive FTA. And the next step, after CPTPP, is to conclude ongoing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. We discussed this and the importance of doing this soon, most desirably within this year.
I greatly appreciate Prime Minister Turnbull and his government’s continued support for Singapore-Australia ties. The CSP has made good progress in deepening and broadening our cooperation. Bilateral trade grew 7 per cent last year and the recently upgraded FTA between Singapore and Australia will further boost our bilateral trade and investment.
We are making progress in the joint development of military training areas in Queensland. We deeply appreciate Australia’s very generous support for Singapore’s training needs, which will benefit both defense forces, and the local economy in the places where we are training. I look forward to this arrangement being finalised into a Treaty this year.
Our cooperation on Science and Innovation is growing. The Landing Pad, which Prime Minister Turnbull mentioned, was established by Australia last March, has since hosted 15 start-ups. Both sides are working together to harness technology in different areas including data science, advanced manufacturing, health and biosecurity to bring tangible benefits to our peoples.
Therefore, we have made significant progress under the CSP and both sides will continue to find new ways to broaden and deepen cooperation. Singapore is keen to update our Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) with Australia to catalyse trade and investment flows further.
We are also keen to conclude an Open Skies Agreement, which will enable airlines of both countries to serve travellers better, increase interactions and opportunities for us to work together. We hope to discuss these issues with our Australian counterparts and to make progress on them.
Our close bilateral relationship is also underpinned by our shared desire to deepen ties between Australia and Southeast Asia more broadly. Australia believes that its future lies in Asia. It took the first step by becoming ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974. Singapore has been a strong supporter of Australia strengthening its links with Southeast Asia as this will help keep the region open. As ASEAN Chair, Singapore will continue to support Australia’s engagement with ASEAN and I look forward to co-chairing the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit with Prime Minister Turnbull on Sunday to take the partnership forward.
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