Singapore, Australia strengthen ties with signing of strategic partnership agreement

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend a welcoming ceremony at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore on June 29, 2015.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend a welcoming ceremony at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore on June 29, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott marked 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries by witnessing the adoption of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that will bring about new levels of cooperation and exchanges in defence, the economy, foreign affairs, and arts and culture.

The accord, signed at a ceremony at the Istana on Monday, paves the way for increased intelligence sharing to combat terrorism, more access to military training areas in Australia, and collaboration on fighting cybercrime.

There will also be annual meetings of Australia and Singapore leaders alternating between the two countries as hosts.

On the economic front, financial markets will be integrated and aviation and maritime connectivity will be enhanced. The flow of skilled labour and visitors will also be increased.

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement will also be reviewed early to look for new trade and investment opportunities.

There will also be more cultural exchanges between the people of Singapore and Australia. Singaporean students will get more internships in Australia while civil servants from both countries will conduct short term study visits.

Heritage institutions and museums will facilitate more travelling exhibitions, loaning of artefacts and co-curate exhibitions.

To build on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, a host of Memorandums of Understanding were signed between agencies from both countries to establish more specific frameworks for cooperation.

Mr Abbott is in Singapore on the last day of a two-day official visit. He is accompanied by an Australian delegation which includes Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles and a business delegation.

ziliang@sph.com.sg