AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be in Singapore tomorrow for a two-day official visit. The highlight of his trip will be the signing of an agreement to cooperate more closely in trade, arts and culture, and security.
This comprehensive strategic partnership "will open a new chapter in Singapore-Australia relations", said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday. It builds on their 1996 partnership agreement and is Singapore's first such bilateral agreement with any country, the ministry added.
Mr Abbott and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will also witness the signing of memoranda of understanding on trade, arts and culture, and counter-terrorism.
The visit, marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Australia this year, underscores the deep and longstanding ties between both countries, the MFA said.
The groundwork for the partnership was laid during the eighth meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee here last August.
Then, top leaders agreed to share more information with each other to combat terrorism and enhance their defence ties. Both are part of the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and Singapore's soldiers regularly train in Australia.
Trade cooperation is also set to go beyond the current Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement inked in 2003. Last year, bilateral trade reached $25.5 billion, or 2.6 per cent of Singapore's total trade, making Australia its 11th largest trade partner.
Australia was the third most popular investment destination for local companies, with Singapore's direct investment there worth $43.2 billion in 2013.
Tomorrow, Mr Abbott, who is visiting Singapore for the first time as prime minister, will tour Bishan Park in the evening and stop by a barbecue for Singaporeans and Australians.
Fifty such barbecues involving 10,000 steaks will be held simultaneously across Singapore as part of an Australian High Commission programme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ties.
On Monday, he will give this year's Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel, titled "Our Common Challenges: Strengthening Security in the Region".
He will also attend an orchid-naming ceremony, call on President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana and be hosted to lunch by Mr Lee.
Accompanying him are Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles and a business delegation.