PM Lee Hsien Loong to make official working visit to Washington from Oct 22 to 26

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talks with US President Donald Trump during the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8, 2017.
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talks with US President Donald Trump during the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will make an official working visit to Washington, DC from Oct 22 to 26 at the invitation of United States President Donald Trump, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday (Oct 12).

PM Lee will meet key administration officials as well as members of the Congressional leadership, a ministry spokesman added, following the US' announcement on Tuesday that Mr Trump will meet Mr Lee at the White House on Oct 23.

"PM Lee will also participate in a moderated dialogue at the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) and speak at the Economic Club of Washington DC," the spokesman said.

The CFR, a leading independent think-tank on foreign policy issues facing the US and others, has announced on its website that a conversation with PM Lee will take place on Oct 25.

He is expected to discuss US-Singapore bilateral relations as well as strategic challenges and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific.

PM Lee had taken part in a dialogue at CFR when he visited Washington on a working visit in June 2014, during which both countries marked the 10th anniversary of the US-Singapore free trade agreement.

During the dialogue, moderated by veteran US ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, Mr Lee noted that America was a part of the Asia-Pacific, had many friends in the region, and that it was important for the US to continue engaging in it actively.

It is a theme observers expect him to highlight in this month's visit, which comes on the eve of President Trump's visit to five countries - and two regional meetings - in East and South-east Asia in the first half of November.

 

The Economic Club, which Mr Lee will address, seeks to strengthen and promote global awareness of the pivotal role Washington plays in national and world economies. Its past speakers have included US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he was ExxonMobil chief executive.

President Trump's press secretary had said this week that when they meet, both leaders will discuss ways to further strengthen the economic, political, security and people-to-people ties between their countries, and work to advance US engagement and mutual interests throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Professor Joseph Liow, dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Mr Lee's first visit to the White House under the Trump administration will be an opportunity for both sides to build on what their leaders established when they first met in Hamburg, Germany, in July on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit.

"Given concerns that the current US administration might not have much bandwidth for South-east Asia, the visit is an opportunity for a regional leader to reinforce the importance of US-South-east Asia relations," he said.

The visit will also be an opportunity to discuss Asean and the Asean-related meetings that Mr Trump is scheduled to attend next month, Prof Liow noted.

Mr Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea and China from Nov 3, before heading to Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, and to the Philippines for the Asean-US Summit and East Asia Summit.

Prof Liow added: "From the Singapore perspective, there will be interest in understanding the Trump administration's view on how it wishes to approach trade and economic integration in the region, and what sort of role they think the US can play in this. Counterterrorism, a longstanding shared interest, will also be on the table and discussed."