US State Dinner for PM Lee Hsien Loong a sign of strong US-Singapore ties: US Ambassador

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and US President Barack Obama at the US-Asean summit at Sunnylands Estate in California on Feb 15, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The State Dinner that US President Barack Obama will host for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August is a clear signal to Singapore and the world of the strong ties between both countries, said US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar on Thursday (June 30).

Singapore is a key partner of the US in its security efforts in South-east Asia, he added.

Mr Wagar made these remarks at a celebration held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre to mark the 240th anniversary of US Independence Day, which falls on July 4th.

The occasion also marked 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the US.

Citing PM Lee's two visits to the US this year, and trips made by Singapore ministers to the US and US Cabinet members here, Mr Wagar said they demonstrate the close working partnership between the two countries.

"But a State Dinner shows something else," he said of the White House dinner PM Lee will attend on Aug 2.

"It is a clear signal from the United States to Singapore, and to the world, of the ties, friendship and respect between our countries, including at the very highest levels of government."

While US-Singapore relations are multi-faceted, the strategic relationship between them is founded on robust military-to-military cooperation, he added.

"America's network of alliances and security partnerships has been the bedrock of South-east Asia's peace and security and prosperity. Singapore is our strong partner in this network," he said.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang, speaking for Singapore, said it has always valued America's unique role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

It was the reason Singapore signed agreements in 1990 and 2005 that facilitated the continued military presence of the US in the region, and deepened their security cooperation, he said.

These defence agreements were updated last December with the signing of the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement to include cooperation in new areas, such as humanitarian aid and cybersecurity.

"This has given Singapore and other countries in the region the time and space to develop and prosper over the last 70 years," he added

Turning to economic cooperation, he said the free trade agreement between both countries is an anchor for these ties and continues to drive the thriving economic relationship.

Last year, the US was Singapore's third largest trading partner in goods and largest trading partner in services. The US is also the largest foreign direct investor in Singapore, and investment in stock from the US was $150 billion in 2014.

Mr Lim said the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a trade deal between 12 countries including Singapore and the US, would further boost economic cooperation and also send a signal of the US' commitment to the region.

"The TPP is more than just a trade agreement. Trade is strategy. More significantly, the TPP will send a strong signal of the US' commitment and confidence in the region.

"It will also anchor the United States in the region, and allow it to continue playing a key role in Singapore's growth story," he said.

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