Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Engagement with US Vice President Mike Pence on 16 November 2018.
Vice President Pence. Ladies and gentlemen.
May I extend a very warm welcome to the Vice President and Mrs Karen Pence to Singapore. We last met Vice President Pence at the White House in October 2017, when President Trump kindly hosted me to lunch. I am very happy that he is now here for his first visit as Vice President, and I think, first visit ever to Singapore.
We have had a productive discussion this morning. We reaffirmed the robust and enduring partnership between Singapore and the United States. It is a deep and wide relationship, with close cooperation in many areas, including economic, defence and security. Our leaders and our officials visit regularly in both directions. This of course includes, notably, President Trump coming to Singapore earlier this year for the Summit with North Korea. And also other members of his Administration, like Secretary of Defence James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who come here very often, including for the Shangri-La Dialogue.
The United States plays an important and constructive role in our region, and hence Singapore hopes to continue developing our ties with the US, as well as to strengthen the ASEAN-US relationship.
Already on security, we are close partners. Singapore is the US’ only Major Security Cooperation Partner. I think we are the only country with this designation. We provide support for the US’ military presence and defence engagements in the region, including rotational deployments of US aircraft and navy ships. There are over 1,000 Singapore Armed Forces military personnel training in the US every year. We work closely too on security cooperation, including transnational security, terrorism and cybersecurity. Singapore has lent early and consistent support to the Defeat-ISIS Coalition since 2014, including most recently deploying a Counter-terrorism Training Unit to Iraq in September. Our intelligence agencies cooperate very closely, and that cooperation has only strengthened as our counter-terrorism efforts have progressed over the years.
Economically, our cooperation is dynamic and robust. The US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA) has been the cornerstone of our economic partnership. Goods and services trade has more than doubled since the USSFTA came into force. Currently, the US has a trade surplus with Singapore of over US$20 billion. Singapore is the second-largest Asian investor in the US, with our companies and investments in more than 30 US states, including in Indiana, Vice President Pence’s home state. Our investments in the US and US exports to Singapore support over a quarter million American jobs. The US is also Singapore’s largest foreign investor, with nearly 4,500 American companies here, many basing their Asian HQs here in order to do business in the region. For example, Honeywell, opened its first industrial cybersecurity centre of excellence in Asia here in April. And Johnson & Johnson, which is opening its first Design Lab outside New York here in Singapore, too. Even Shake Shack is opening its first burger outlet in Singapore very soon, which is the most important investment of all.
Although our bilateral relationship is already comprehensive, we are still uncovering new ways to cooperate. For example, in energy, advanced manufacturing, and technology partnerships, through the US-Singapore Collaboration Platform MOU, which we have just renewed. I also welcome the conclusion of a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) and Reciprocal Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA), which will strengthen our tax cooperation. I am pleased that our Cyber Security Agency and the US State Department will be working together on a Technical Assistance Programme to conduct cybersecurity training workshops in Singapore and also regionally.
Our friendship is underpinned by growing people-to-people ties. More than 4,000 students from Singapore study in US universities and colleges every year, including in Indiana University-Bloomington and Purdue University which are popular amongst Singaporeans. Singapore and American undergraduates have also undertaken exchanges under the US-Singapore Summer Exchange Scholarship Programme, which was launched in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relations. I am confident that our strong and mature bilateral relationship will continue to strengthen at all levels and I look forward to seeing Vice President Pence again next year when I hope to visit the US.
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