50 years together: US and Singapore progress and partnership

Today, the United States and Singapore commemorate 50 years of formal diplomatic relations. It has been a remarkable journey. A determined leadership with a focused and shared vision for a peaceful, prosperous and innovative Asia-Pacific has nurtured our relationship. We are confident that the various sectors of Singapore and the United States will be as strongly entwined for the next 50 years as we have become over the last five decades.

Working together, our relationship has evolved and expanded with a commitment to promote a stable, transparent and rules-based order that has been beneficial for our countries and the region. It is a partnership built on the pillars of political, security, trade and investment, cultural exchanges and people-to-people ties.

In fact, the US-Singapore economic relationship started 180 years ago, when Singapore was a key trading port, receiving the first ice exports from a New England entrepreneur.

It continues today with the United States as the largest foreign direct investor in Singapore - more than Australia, China and Japan combined - with over 3,700 US companies headquartered in Singapore. They benefit from an economic eco-system that offers rule of law and certainty and, at the same time, helps create jobs, and educational and investment opportunities for tens of thousands in Singapore. Both our countries also enjoy a competitive advantage in our commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. Our companies invest for the long term at home and abroad.

The Singapore and US economies have grown steadily over the years because we know that no country can expect its economy to develop simply by buying and selling to its own people. Trade is a job creator and prosperity builder, and the United States and Singapore benefit from one of the best free trade agreements in the world.

Together, Singapore and the United States have also been instrumental proponents for the forward-looking Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Through the TPP, we send a strong message that high standards are important for trade and regional growth. The TPP builds a strategic economic architecture that anchors our countries with partners across the Pacific.

The relationship has also grown to incorporate security and people-to-people aspects. In fact, the United States and Singapore have conducted military exchanges for many years. More than 1,000 Singaporean personnel train in the United States every year, testament to the level of mutual trust and shared security commitment.

The United States uses Singapore's military facilities to maintain its presence in the region. The mutual commitment led both countries to sign an enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement last year to expand military, policy and strategic exchanges. In addition, the agreement also includes collaboration in new areas like humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and cyber security. We cooperate closely to overcome the challenges of terrorism - a global concern which presents a danger to all civilised societies.

The partnership between Singapore and the United States is not limited to trade or military cooperation. We also send our best and brightest through our cultural and academic exchange programmes. Today, more than 4,500 Singaporeans study in secondary schools, colleges and universities across the United States and over 22 per cent of all Americans studying in South-east Asia study in Singapore. As a result, friendships are formed, understandings forged, and fresh perspectives are injected into the relationship.

Five decades ago, both our countries faced difficult periods. As Singapore took its first determined steps as a nation, the United States was grappling with racial tensions and the conflict in Vietnam.

We have come a long way since 1966. President Barack Obama has spent time in South-east Asia and made it a priority to attend the East Asia Summits. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has visited the United States almost every year, engaging leaders across all sectors. Singapore and the United States are among the most harmonious multiracial societies in the world. Our countries have progressed and prospered over the years because we reinforce each other's conviction that the best societies are diverse, multi-religious, multi-cultural and relentlessly focused on education, innovation, and creativity.

This is a moment of exceptional opportunity for Singapore and the United States. Technology and communications innovations are providing new and faster avenues for cross-border collaboration. We are investing at unprecedented levels and promoting high standards when it comes to business practices. We are working together to upgrade education, training and development opportunities. We partner closely to benefit our region, including through the US-Singapore Third Country Training Programme that offers technical assistance to our Asean partners.

As we look towards the next 50 years and beyond, what binds our nations is our ability to continuously evolve and improve. Our two countries are determined to deliver on the strategic and economic promise of this Pacific century by leveraging on our extraordinary partnership.

Today, we look back at the progress of the US-Singapore relationship with pride, and look ahead with enthusiasm to what the future holds.

• Kirk Wagar is the United States Ambassador to Singapore and Ashok Mirpuri is the Singapore Ambassador to the United States.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 50 years together: US and Singapore progress and partnership. Subscribe