BERLIN -Singapore and Germany are working on an enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, and signed a Joint Statement on Cybersecurity Cooperation on Thursday (July 6).
Both countries are also embarking on other new areas of cooperation, such as in research and development for industry 4.0, fintech, and even sports, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his remarks to reporters after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin.
Mr Lee said he is very happy that both countries have strengthened their cooperation since his last visit in 2015, for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Germany.
Germany and Singapore enjoy a very close partnership, underpinned by broad and deep collaboration, he said. "Most importantly, we are both like-minded on many issues with a shared strategic outlook. We are both strongly committed to an open international trading system, the rule of law and sustainable development."
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In the same vein, Dr Merkel said both countries agree on the need to strengthen multilateral ties, and keep trade flows open. This is an area that Singapore has been very successful in throughout its history - opening up to and facing new technological developments, she added.
"As far as our bilateral ties are concerned, it's fair to say they are very close, very friendly indeed. We have been pursuing an open dialogue on foreign policy and security issues, we have excellent economic and trade ties, and we have a very intensive research cooperation," said the chancellor in German.
The deeper cooperation between the countries saw Singapore's Cyber Security Agency and Germany's Federal Foreign Office sign a Joint Declaration on Cybersecurity Cooperation on Thursday. The declaration covers cybersecurity cooperation in key areas including regular information exchanges, joint training and research, and sharing best practices to promote innovation.
Mr Lee said Singapore also looks forward to stepping up defence cooperation with Germany in many areas of mutual interest.
Both countries cooperate closely on defence and security, and Singapore is grateful to Germany for hosting training by the Singapore Armed Forces, he added.
On trade, he said Singapore greatly appreciates Germany's support for the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), and he hopes the deal will come into force soon.
"It will bring significant benefits to Singapore, to Germany and in face the whole of the EU, and signal clearly our support for international trade," he said.
It will also be "a pathfinder" for an EU-ASEAN FTA, and help draw the two regions even closer together, he added.
The EUSFTA had hit a roadblock in May, when the European Court of Justice ruled that it had to be ratified by the EU's 38 national and regional authorities to come into force.
The path is now clear for that process to be completed, Mr Lee said.
He noted that Singapore and Germany also have strong ties in trade and investment - Germany is the Republic's largest trading partner in the European Union, while Singapore is Germany's largest trading partner in ASEAN. Foreign direct investment from Germany was about S$18.4 billion at the end of 2015.
Singapore companies are making inroads into the areospace and hospitality sectors in Germany, and there are more than 1,600 German companies are based in Singapore.
Major German corporations and Mittelstand - small and medium sized enterprises - are using Singapore as an innovation hub for the advanced manufacturing and digitalisation sectors, Mr Lee noted.
He said he looks forward to launching electronics giant Siemens' Singapore Digitalisation Hub when he visits Munich next week. The hub, which Mr Lee said is the first of its kind globally, will be doing research and development into digitalisation and the internet of things.
Mr Lee also thanked Dr Merkel for inviting Singapore to the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit, which takes place in Hamburg on Friday and Saturday.
Singapore is not a member of the G-20, which comprises 19 major countries and the European Union. This will be the seventh time the country has been invited to participate as a representative of the Global Governance Group (3G), an informal group of 30 small and medium-sized countries that Singapore is convenor of, and which aims to promote greater transparency and inclusivity in the G-20 process.
Said Dr Merkel: "I'm delighted that Singapore is invited as a guest to the G-20 Summit meeting. As the chair of the Global Governance Group, Singapore works very much to remind us of the interests of smaller countries and medium-sized countries."
It is thus very important that the G-20 does not only bring together the big countries but also representatives of smaller countries that play an equally important part, she said.
There are many urgent issues on the table at the summit, such as climate change, terrorism, cyber security, and income inequality, as well as many different perspectives and views on how to deal with them, Mr Lee noted.
"Singapore hopes to contribute our perspective and ideas, work with Germany and other countries to push forward the G-20 agenda. And that way we hope we can promote stronger engagement between the G-20 and the wider United Nations membership through the Global Governance Group," he said.
Dr Merkel also thanked Singapore for its role in helping to tackle regional issues like the South China Sea.
When welcoming Mr Lee, Dr Merkel said: "I will never forget that you happened to be my first official visitor and guest when I took office."
Mr Lee noted he was Dr Merkel's guest shortly after she took office in 2005, and he is visiting again to "take our relationship another step forward".
"The chancellor is a good friend, and I greatly value her advice, and her friendship and her insights," he said, before being hosted to lunch by Dr Merkel.