A thank you letter to Singapore

Today as we celebrate America's 243rd birthday, my US Embassy staff and I are grateful for the many generous messages from Singaporean friends and counterparts sharing their warm feelings about the United States.

In "A birthday letter to America" (The Straits Times, July 2), Professor Tommy Koh, Singapore's Ambassador to the US from 1984 to 1990 and a cherished friend of the US, reflected on his admiration for America's generosity of spirit and global leadership and challenged us to live up to our ideals. Those ideals are what inspire me to serve my country as a diplomat and they are the foundation of America's partnership with Singapore and countries around the world.


As Americans, it is in our DNA to embrace opportunities for partnerships with our friends and allies - and, yes, even with our competitors.

The US does not fear competition. Our belief in a free market, whether of ideas or goods, rests on the conviction that competition on a level playing field drives human progress by maximising our potential and empowering growth. We work tirelessly to build relationships that make us all safer and more prosperous. In the US, we frame that concept as the American dream, though in many ways, it is quite similar to the vision Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had as he and his colleagues worked to build a Singapore that would open opportunities and deliver results for all citizens.

The US has led the way over the past century in building a global system based on widely accepted rules and norms, setting the stage for long-term economic growth and global security through partnerships and fair competition. In the past 70 years, this system has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions around the world - a clear rejection of a zero-sum approach in a world where there is room for all to succeed.

But to achieve that shared success, countries must build economies that are open, transparent and rules-based. Governments must commit to protecting intellectual property and opening up markets, preserving the human rights and dignity of all, and respecting the sovereignty of nations. Our bond with Singapore is special because of our shared commitment to safeguarding the international commons and opening new frontiers of partnership and prosperity for all.


At the end of this month, I will return to the US having witnessed our countries' bilateral relationship grow from strength to strength over the past three years.


During that period, Singapore responded with generosity and solidarity to our navy family on the USS John S. McCain, planned and executed a successful Singapore Summit that brought us closer to peace on the Korean peninsula, and welcomed our President, Vice-President, 54 congressmen and senators, 11 Cabinet-level officials, and thousands of American sailors who had the good fortune of pulling into port in this amazing city.

Our bilateral economic partnership is stronger than ever before. The US continues to be the single largest investor in Singapore, with more than US$244 billion (S$331 billion) in direct investment, more than all Asian countries combined. Our total bilateral trade in goods and services rose by 20 per cent last year, making us Singapore's largest trade partner in services by more than double any other country.

Over my time here, the number of registered US businesses has grown almost 20 per cent and those 4,500 companies employ nearly 200,000 people of different races and nationalities across Singapore.

Our strong bond extends to our security and defence relationship, as we work together on counter-terrorism, cyber security and military and law enforcement cooperation. Singapore's support for US military presence in the region, our joint military exercises and our longstanding training cooperation all contribute to regional stability. On any given day, there are about 1,000 Singapore Armed Forces personnel training in the US, more than any other foreign military. When it comes to keeping our countries and the region safe, we are confident in our continued success because we have trained side by side for decades, view each other as an equal partner and friend, and remain united in purpose and ideals.

Generosity of spirit, openness of heart and mind, a commitment to diversity, and a fundamental belief in the equality of all people are some of our most important American values. We celebrate those beliefs not only yearly on July 4, but 365 days a year. As I look back on my time as charge d'affaires of the US Embassy, I am deeply grateful to have spent the last three years working with Singapore's Government, civil society and citizens to strengthen our longstanding, values-based bilateral partnership.

Thank you, Singapore, for sharing our ideals and for holding us to them. We are truly better together in everything that we do.

Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath serves as charge d'affaires of the US Embassy in Singapore, where she leads 19 US government agencies in advancing the US-Singapore bilateral relationship.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'A thank you letter to Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe