PM underlines importance of US relations

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting US House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington on Wednesday. Also present were (from left) Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting US House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington on Wednesday. Also present were (from left) Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Strong economic links underpin ties, with US firms, investments generating plenty of jobs

American companies and investments in Singapore generate tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs for Singaporeans, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday.

It is therefore important for Singapore to maintain good relations with the United States, and for the US to remain engaged in Asia, he told Singapore reporters when summing up his six-day official working visit to the country.

It has been a useful trip, he said.

As President Donald Trump is due to travel to Asia next week, "they were receptive to talking to us, hearing our views, getting a perspective of the region and what we would like the United States to do".

PM Lee believed that Singapore had been able to put its points across, and that "the US understands it is important for America to be engaged in Asia, that Asia relies greatly on America's participation in economics, security and many other areas, and this should continue under the new administration".

"How to do it, what specific trade policies to pursue, these are things they have to think about and they will think about," he added.

PM Lee and Mr Trump had on Monday witnessed the signing of a deal for Singapore Airlines to buy 39 planes from aircraft manufacturer Boeing, an order Boeing said will sustain more than 70,000 direct and indirect US jobs for the company, its suppliers and others.

"It means we are buying things from America, at the same time it means the Americans are investing in Singapore and in a very big way," PM Lee said, in underlining the strong US-Singapore economic ties.

More than 4,200 American multinational companies have a presence in Singapore.

"Therefore, it is important for us to manage this relationship and to keep on cultivating the Americans at many levels," he said.

During his visit, which ended yesterday, PM Lee met President Trump at the White House, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

He also addressed the Economic Club of Washington and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and met key congressional leaders and Singaporeans in Washington.

At the CFR on Wednesday, he spoke about Asia's dynamism and growth, and noted that even as the US may be rethinking and readjusting its priorities, its prosperity and security are closely linked to Asia.

PM Lee also highlighted the importance of stable Sino-US relations to regional and global stability.

He said he was heartened that officials he met were aware the US had to remain involved in Asia.

He held separate meetings with Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and ranking member Ben Cardin, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen met Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, who reiterated that the US Navy would not only continue its influence in the Asia-Pacific, but intended to grow it - and would increase the number of ships in its order of battle.

The Prime Minister's Office said that in his meetings on Capitol Hill, PM Lee welcomed the bipartisan support for the US' strong engagement of Asia and highlighted the enduring strategic and economic importance of the region to the US.

The members of Congress also expressed appreciation for and affirmed Singapore's close partnership with the US, and discussed regional and international developments with him.

PM Lee had dinner with National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, and discussed how their countries could further strengthen the already-strong trade and investment linkages, the importance of sustained US economic engagement of South-east Asia, and the administration's economic priorities at home and towards Asia.

"We covered a lot of ground this time," PM Lee said of his trip.

"I hope it would have left an impression with them and will help to keep America a little bit more focused and engaged in the region."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'PM underlines importance of US relations'. Print Edition | Subscribe