Leaders' Retreat: PM Lee Hsien Loong, President Joko Widodo hope Singapore-Indonesia ties will grow even stronger

Indonesian President Joko Widodo calls on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong ahead of the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat at the Istana on Oct 8, 2019. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo inspect the guard of honour during the welcome ceremony ahead of the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat at the Istana on on Oct 8, 2019. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - The relationship between Singapore and Indonesia has prospered, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting President Joko Widodo noted at their fourth Leaders' Retreat on Tuesday (Oct 8), as they expressed the hope that ties will grow stronger in the next five years.

The meeting comes ahead of Mr Joko's swearing in for his second term in two weeks' time. President Joko, better known as Jokowi, and his new Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin had won the April presidential election as a joint ticket with 55.5 per cent of the vote.

At the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat at the Istana, Mr Lee congratulated Mr Joko on his re-election and said he looked forward to attending his inauguration.

"I'm very happy that in President Jokowi's first term, we have built excellent relationship of trust and cooperation," said Mr Lee at a joint press conference with Mr Joko after they concluded what Mr Lee described as a "very good meeting".

Mr Lee added that he hoped to deepen the relationship with the President and his new Cabinet to bring the relations between the two neighbours to a higher level.

Mr Joko, who is on a two-day visit, received a ceremonial welcome at the Istana, and the Singapore Armed Forces Military Band played both countries' anthems.

At the retreat, a long-held tradition in which leaders and ministers meet informally each year to discuss ways to strengthen ties, both leaders took stock of their wide-ranging cooperation across the economic, people-to-people and security sectors, and discussed how to build on this strong foundation.

"We both reaffirmed our commitment to continue strengthening our mutually beneficial relations between our two countries," Mr Joko said at the press conference.

He and Mr Lee also noted with satisfaction that economic links between both countries have steadily expanded over the years, with cooperation in trade, investments and tourism growing from strength to strength.

Singapore has consistently been among the top investors in Indonesia, and has been the largest foreign investor in Indonesia since 2014, with realised investments reaching US$9.2 billion (S$12.7 billion) in 2018. Both countries have also consistently been among each other's largest sources of tourist arrivals.

Two pacts were also inked between both countries, witnessed by the leaders.

The first was the Agreement between Indonesia and Singapore on Electronic Data Exchange to Facilitate and Secure Trade, which will link the one-stop e-Customs facilities, commonly known as national single windows, of both countries. It seeks to bring about a seamless, paperless and secure business environment for bilateral trade.

The second was a Memorandum of Understanding on Archives Cooperation between the National Archives of Singapore, which is under the National Library Board, and the National Archives of Indonesia. It aims to deepen knowledge of the history, culture and heritage on both sides.

Mr Lee also affirmed Singapore's commitment to support the growth and development of Indonesia.

He welcomed President Joko's interest for both sides to continue to deepen human resource cooperation, an area which ranks high on Mr Joko's priorities in the next five years. The leaders agreed on the importance of developing and upskilling human resources to meet the needs of their industries and support their expanding economic ties. Singapore, Mr Lee noted, had trained thousands of Indonesian officials and trainers under more than 20 bilateral agreements.

There is scope for more student exchanges and internships for youth to spend time in each other's countries, he added.

The retreat is a long-held tradition in which leaders and ministers meet informally each year to discuss ways to strengthen ties. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The leaders also agreed to continue to make progress in other areas, from financial and transport cooperation to strengthening connectivity between their two countries.

Apart from economic collaboration, the leaders also discussed security relations, and welcomed the strong and longstanding ties between the defence establishments and militaries of both countries.

They also agreed that the good relations between them and their countries have paved the way to discuss longstanding issues such as airspace management and military training in an "open and constructive manner", said Mr Lee. Both sides have agreed on a framework to discuss both issues, he added.

The leaders also pledged to strengthen people-to-people ties, and have tasked their officials to organise a Singapore-Indonesia Civil Service Forum for public servants from both sides to learn from each other's best practices.

The evening was capped by a dinner which Mr Lee hosted for Mr Joko and his delegation.

The evening was capped by a dinner which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosted for Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his delegation. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mr Lee said bilateral ties were in good shape, "deep, multi-faceted and forward-looking", and added that much had been achieved during Mr Joko's first term.

"I look forward to sustaining this positive trajectory and carrying it forward in his second term."

"I'm confident we can do more together to take relations to new heights and realise our win-win cooperation for the mutual benefit of our people," he added.

Mr Joko welcomed this, saying: "Let's continue working together for the prosperity of our two countries and people."

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