Singapore enjoys good relations with neighbours, US and China, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore enjoys good relations with neighbours, US and China, says PM Lee Hsien Loong
PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Teck Ghee Lunar New Year Celebration Dinner 2017.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - While there may be uncertainty around the world, the good news is that Singapore enjoys good and stable relations with its neighbours, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Feb 4).

In brief remarks at a Chinese New Year community event, he touched on ties with Indonesia and Malaysia, and also the United States and China, saying that Singapore enjoys good relations with these countries and hopes to deepen co-operation.

There were both challenges and opportunities ahead for Singapore, he said. But for the country to prosper in an uncertain world, he added, "we have to stay united, understand what is important to Singapore as we manage our foreign relations and we find new paths ahead together".

On ties with Indonesia and Malaysia, Mr Lee said Singapore was working with both countries on several projects, and they "show that the two sides want to co-operate, would like to work together, and there's goodwill and the desire to deepen the relationship, which I think is good for both sides".

When he visited Semarang, Indonesia, last year with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, they had opened the Kendal Industrial Park a project by a Singapore investor. Mr Lee said there were more opportunities there for Singaporeans, as Mr Joko had welcomed more investments from Singapore.

With Malaysia, Singapore is working on major projects such as the high speed rail and the Johor Baru-Singapore rapid transit system, which will make it more convenient for Singaporeans and Malaysians to travel between both countries, said Mr Lee.

Casting his eye further afield, Mr Lee said the election of President Donald Trump in the United States was "a very important change".

"It shows that something fundamental has changed in the US and also, therefore, in the world," he said speaking at the annual Chinese New Year dinner in his Teck Ghee ward.

He added that the mood among some segments of American voters was different from before, as they were not happy with the status quo and wanted change. "They want somebody to express their frustration because their lives haven't improved, and so they elected the Republicans and Donald Trump and his team in order to express this frustration and try to change things, hopefully, for them, for the better," he said.

Noting that the US had been a good partner for Singapore for many years, he said that Singaporean would have to watch carefully what policies the new US administration pursues domestically and internationally.

He added that the US was an "important power in the region, which contributes to peace and stability in Asia", adding that he hoped this would continue even "with a different administration and even with a different mood in the US".

"If the US can continue to play this role and continue to co-operate with Singapore and with other countries, I think it's good for Singapore and it's also good for the US and for the world," he said.

Mr Lee said Singapore would also pursue close relations with other countries, such as China. "We have good relations with China, it's grown steadily over the years," he said.

China is Singapore's biggest trading partner, and Singapore is China's biggest source of foreign investments. Both countries are also cooperating on many projects, such as the Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-City, and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, the newest government-to-government project between both sides, Mr Lee said.

The Chinese government had mooted the latest project and had approached Singapore, which then put up a proposal for it after careful studies, Mr Lee said.

He added that both countries were also discussing new areas of co-operation, such a how Singapore can support China's One Belt One Road initiative.

Mr Lee said both governments met regularly through the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting, the highest-level forum between China and Singapore, "in order to review our projects and discuss what more we can do together".

The next JCBC meeting will happen in Beijing at the end of the month, before Singapore's Budget session, he added.

"It's an important meeting for our co-operation because it's the top level of the structure," he said pointing to the meeting being co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

"So both sides see value in the relationship and we hope to continue to develop our friendship with China to the mutual benefit of both countries."

This article was first published on Feb 4, 2017.
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