PM Lee arrives in Russia for visit to boost business ties

PM Lee meeting Singaporeans Derrick and Melissa Leow, both 32, at a reception in Moscow yesterday. He is holding their seven-month-old daughter, Charlotte. He will fly to Sochi tomorrow to attend the Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit, which marks 20
PM Lee meeting Singaporeans Derrick and Melissa Leow, both 32, at a reception in Moscow yesterday. He is holding their seven-month-old daughter, Charlotte. He will fly to Sochi tomorrow to attend the Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit, which marks 20 years of Asean-Russia relations.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrived in Russia yesterday for a four-day working visit that is focused on strengthening business ties.

He told Tass news agency in an interview that he hoped to boost trade between Singapore and Russia with a free trade deal between the Republic and the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Russia is a member.

He noted that bilateral trade is below what it should be, although it has quadrupled in the last 10 years.

 

Mr Lee also disclosed that there are advanced plans to build a Russian Cultural Centre in Singapore.

He visited the Red Square in the city, and the Kremlin, the country's historic and political centre. He also met about 30 members of the Singapore community in Moscow, including students and professionals, before having lunch with members of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) delegation that is on a business mission in Russia.

"It's been a long time since I've been in Moscow: The last time was 1978, which was probably before some of you were born," he said at the reception. "But the Kremlin hasn't changed; Moscow has changed, the world has changed."

Mr Lee is scheduled to meet Eurasian Economic Commission chairman Tigran Sargsyan today, and witness the signing of a pact between the commission and Singapore to promote greater cooperation.

SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit, who is leading the business delegation, noted that Western sanctions have created opportunities for Singapore businesses in Russia.

"They are a European country, but as a result of the political difficulty now between Russia and the West, therein lies opportunities for us to come in, because they cannot trade so easily with the West," he said. "This strategic orientation is going to last a long time."

Mr Lee will fly to Sochi tomorrow to attend the Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit marking 20 years of Asean-Russia relations.

"We hope that from this (summit), we'll be able to develop our friendship and push our relationship another step forward," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'PM arrives in Russia for visit to boost business ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe