Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Vivian thanks Low, Pritam for support of S'pore's position

The SAF Terrex infantry carriers at Pasir Panjang container terminal in January after returning from Hong Kong.
The SAF Terrex infantry carriers at Pasir Panjang container terminal in January after returning from Hong Kong.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday expressed his appreciation for bipartisan unity on matters of foreign policy.

Thanking Workers' Party MPs Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh for their "thoughtful speeches" during the debate on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' budget, he said: "This unity of purpose is essential for us to pursue our foreign policy goals in this uncertain and volatile environment."

Mr Singh was seeking more information on staffing needs in the light of global uncertainty, while Mr Low asked if Singapore needed to update its foreign policy to survive amid a changing global order.

Mr Low noted how Singapore's approach to foreign policy - its emphasis on international rule of law, and commitment to an open economy and freedom of navigation, among others - has earned it a "good deal of leg room" among major powers.

"Much of our foreign policy achievements are clearly due to our hard-working diplomatic corps, members of whom have been building on the foundation established by our premier statesman, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew," Mr Low said.

But things are changing, he noted. The new US administration poses a challenge, he added, citing how the superpower had pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement this year.

He also spoke of the seizure of the Singapore Armed Forces Terrex infantry carriers by Hong Kong Customs last year, and highlighted the critical challenges of a rising China.

While the Asian giant is an important strategic partner, Singapore must be mindful of not becoming too dependent on the Chinese economy, said Mr Low.

"Singapore not only risks becoming economically vulnerable to any strategic foreign policy shaped by China, the multiracial and multicultural character of our society will also come under pressure," said Mr Low.

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Vivian thanks Low, Pritam for support of S'pore's position'. Print Edition | Subscribe