Parliament: MFA office-holders give update on Singapore's foreign relations with key countries

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan speaking in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget on March 1, 2019.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan speaking in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget on March 1, 2019.PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Senior Minister of State Maliki Osman and Minister of State Sam Tan gave Parliament an overview of Singapore's relations with various countries on Friday (March 1) during the debate on their ministry's budget.

Malaysia

Bilateral issues may have come to the fore in recent months, but Singapore remains committed to resolving them in an amicable and constructive manner, in "strict accordance with bilateral agreements and international law", Dr Balakrishnan said.

Senior officials on both sides have been meeting to discuss measures to de-escalate the issue of port limits, and will submit their recommendations to the foreign ministers of both countries in early March 2019.

Transport ministers and senior officials of both sides are also working to find a mutually agreeable arrangement on the outstanding airspace issue, he added.

Indonesia

Singapore's economy is "inextricably linked" with Indonesia's and cooperation between the two countries is "deep, multi-faceted and reinforced by frequent high-level exchanges". Both countries also share common defence and security challenges, and agencies on both sides work together in defence exercises, as well as share intelligence to counter terrorism.

 
 

In 2018, Singapore was Indonesia's top foreign investor. Its investments include the Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang and the Nongsa Digital Park in Batam.

Last year, Bank Indonesia and the Monetary Authority of Singapore established a US$10 billion (S$13.5 billion) bilateral financial arrangement. This enables the two central banks to access foreign currency liquidity from each other if needed, to preserve monetary and financial stability.

Brunei

Singapore has a "longstanding special relationship" with Brunei and it will continue to strengthen ties between them. The strong defence cooperation and the Currency Interchangeability Agreement are important pillars of this relationship, Dr Balakrishnan said.

It looks forward to cooperating with Brunei in such areas as aquaculture and agriculture, and will continue to engage the younger generation of Bruneian leaders through the annual Young Leaders' Programme, which will be held in Brunei this year.

China

Singapore exchanged several high-level visits with China in 2018. It also maintains regular exchanges through such platforms as the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the Singapore-China Forum on Leadership and the Singapore-China Social Governance Forum, all of which are chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Singapore is also China's top foreign investor, while China has been Singapore's largest trading partner since 2013.

"Both sides, China and Singapore, concluded the upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in 2018, and this will bring our economic cooperation to new heights," Dr Balakrishnan said. Singapore is also working very closely with China, including on the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The United States

The US has invested more in South-east Asia than it has in India, China and Japan combined, Dr Balakrishnan said, adding that it has "real skin in the game" here.

This includes US$113 million (S$153 million) in new economic initiatives and another US$300 million in funding for regional security cooperation.

Both countries cooperate on issues such as economics and defence. Last year, US President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence visited Singapore. Singapore will continue to step up economic, defence and security - including cyber security - cooperation with the US. "While the current US administration has adopted an unconventional approach towards issues such as trade, actually the fundamentals that underpin the strong bilateral relationship with us remain," Dr Balakrishnan said.

Australia

Singapore is exploring new fields of cooperation with Australia in the areas of the digital economy and cyber security. It is building on the "positive momentum" generated by the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which was signed in 2015.

India

Collaboration with India on fintech, or financial technology, will be intensified. This includes linking up electronic payment systems, banks and businesses. India's large population and Singapore's position as a regional hub mean there is "tremendous potential" for both countries to work together.

Japan

Singapore is expanding cooperation with Japan in such areas as smart cities, infrastructure and the provision of technical help to third countries through the renewed Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st century.

New Zealand

Negotiations to upgrade the free trade agreement with New Zealand have just been concluded, and Singapore is now working to upgrade its relations to an Enhanced Partnership.