Singapore has good ties with neighbours: PM Lee

 Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Teck Ghee Lunar New Year Celebration Dinner 2017.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Teck Ghee Lunar New Year Celebration Dinner 2017. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

While there may be uncertainty around the world, the good news is that Singapore enjoys good, stable relations with its neighbours, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking to constituents at a Chinese New Year dinner yesterday, Mr Lee gave an overview of ties with Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as the United States and China.

Singapore has good relations with all and hopes to deepen cooperation with its partners, he said.

Citing several joint projects Singapore is working on with its closest neighbours, Mr Lee said they "show that the two sides want to cooperate, would like to work together, and there's goodwill and the desire to deepen the relationship".

He noted that when he visited Semarang with Indonesian President Joko Widodo last year, they opened the Kendal Industrial Park. Mr Lee said there were more opportunities there for Singaporeans, as Mr Joko had welcomed more investments from Singapore.

With Malaysia, Singapore is working on major projects such as the high-speed rail and the Johor Baru-Singapore rapid transit system, which will make it more convenient for people to travel between both countries, said Mr Lee.

Casting his eye farther afield, he said the election of President Donald Trump in the US was "a very important change".

"It shows that something fundamental has changed in the US and also, therefore, in the world," he said.

He noted the mood among some segments of American voters was different from before, as they were not happy with the status quo and wanted change. "They want somebody to express their frustration because their lives haven't improved, and so they elected the Republicans, and Donald Trump and his team in order to express this frustration and try to change things, hopefully, for them, for the better."

Noting the US had been a good partner for many years, he said Singapore would have to watch carefully what policies the new US administration pursues domestically and internationally.

The US is an "important power in the region, which contributes to peace and stability in Asia", and Mr Lee hopes this continues "even with a different administration and even with a different mood in the US". "If the US can continue to play this role and continue to cooperate with Singapore and with other countries, it's good for Singapore, and it's also good for the US and for the world," he said.

Singapore also pursues close relations with China, he said. "We have good relations with China. It's grown steadily over the years."

Both countries are cooperating on joint projects such as Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-city and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, the latest government-to-government project. The Chinese government mooted the latest initiative and approached Singapore, which then put up a proposal for it after careful studies, Mr Lee noted.

Both sides are discussing new areas of cooperation, such as how Singapore can support China's One Belt, One Road initiative, he said.

The governments also meet regularly through the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting, the highest-level forum between China and Singapore. The next JCBC meeting will take place in Beijing at the end of this month.

"It's an important meeting for our cooperation because it's the top level of the structure," he said, pointing to the JCBC being co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. "Both sides see value in the relationship and we hope to continue to develop our friendship with China to the mutual benefit of both countries," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 05, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore has good ties with neighbours: PM Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe