Australian and S'pore leaders affirm close, positive ties

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull greeting each other before their breakfast meeting yesterday in Antalya, Turkey, where both leaders are attending the G-20 Leaders' Summit. It was their first meeting since
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull greeting each other before their breakfast meeting yesterday in Antalya, Turkey, where both leaders are attending the G-20 Leaders' Summit. It was their first meeting since Mr Turnbull took office in September.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Turnbull and PM Lee reiterate support for the strategic partnership signed in June

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the first time at a breakfast meeting before the opening of the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit.

Both leaders had a wide-ranging discussion on regional developments and domestic issues at the meeting, which was the first for the two leaders since Mr Turnbull took office in September, Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin said.

They also affirmed positive and close ties between the two countries, and reiterated their support for the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, she added.

The partnership paves the way for increased intelligence sharing to combat terrorism, greater access to military training areas in Australia and collaboration on fighting cybercrime. It also seeks to boost cooperation between the two countries in areas as diverse as the economy and arts and culture.

The partnership agreement was signed in June this year by Mr Lee and Mr Turnbull's predecessor Tony Abbott, who had been on an official visit to Singapore to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"Both Prime Ministers were pleased that the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was off to a good start and work on reviewing the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement was under way," Ms Chang said.

She added that the two leaders also expressed keen interest in visiting each other in the near future.

The partnership paves the way for increased intelligence sharing to combat terrorism, greater access to military training areas in Australia and collaboration on fighting cybercrime. It also seeks to boost cooperation between the two countries in areas as diverse as the economy and arts and culture.

The review of the free trade agreement is expected to be concluded by July next year.

Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann were also present at the breakfast meeting.

Yesterday, Mr Lee also met Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. They reaffirmed the warm bilateral relations between the two countries and expressed confidence that with the signing of the Turkey-Singapore Free Trade Agreement last Saturday, relations will be further strengthened.

The G-20 comprises 19 member countries and the European Union, and leaders were yesterday officially welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Singapore is not a member of the G-20, but has been invited to the Antalya summit alongside leaders from Spain, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Senegal and Azerbaijan.

Yesterday, the leaders attended a working lunch on development and climate change.

At the session, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought a definite timeline before 2030 to reduce the high costs of transferring money to boost growth. "Remittances are a key source of income for households and support for the economy in developing countries," he said.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon noted at the lunch that G-20 members account for more than three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions.

He commended world leaders for the "significant progress" in climate action plans that have been undertaken ahead of a major climate summit in Paris next month, which have bent the "emissions curve down to a temperature rise of approximately 3 deg C".

But Mr Ban said this was not enough. "We have to go much further and much faster," he added, citing statistics that even a two-degree rise will have dire consequences on food security, economic stability and international security.

Leaders also discussed the state of the global economy and how to promote growth and employment later yesterday, before a working dinner where terrorism and the refugee crisis were on the agenda.

The two-day summit ends today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Australian and S'pore leaders affirm close, positive ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe