Singapore and Australia exploring new areas of collaboration to strengthen partnership

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend a joint press conference at the Istana on June 7, 2019.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend a joint press conference at the Istana on June 7, 2019. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Australia are exploring new areas of collaboration, in areas such as cyber security, food security and the digital economy.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while discussions on the digital economy are at an early stage, there is scope for the countries to deepen cooperation, particularly in newer areas such as e-invoicing, digital identities, e-payments and artificial intelligence.

Mr Lee gave this as an example of how Singapore and Australia are planning to take their partnership further, after a meeting with his counterpart Scott Morrison at the Istana on Friday (June 7).

Mr Morrison is on his first overseas trip after winning the Australian federal election last month.

Speaking at a joint press conference following their meeting, Mr Lee congratulated the Australian leader and said he is happy that Mr Morrison made Singapore the first country in Asia to visit.

Mr Lee also gave updates on several bilateral initiatives under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), which the countries established in 2015 to deepen cooperation in areas such as trade, defence and people-to-people ties.

Bilateral trade grew by 25 per cent year on year in 2018, and Mr Lee said he hopes it will continue to grow with the upgraded free trade agreement that came into force in 2017.

Tourism has grown substantially, with over 1.1 million Australian residents visiting the Republic last year, while about 400,000 Singaporeans visited Australia.

 
 
 

On defence cooperation, Mr Lee said both countries are expected to sign a treaty this year to finalise an arrangement to jointly develop military training areas in Queensland.

Mr Lee also welcomed Australia's increase of the Work Holiday Visa Programme spaces for Singaporeans, from 500 to 2,500.

During their meeting, Mr Lee said, he raised with Mr Morrison the concluding of an Open Skies Agreement and updating the 1969 Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement.

Under the CSP, the countries had agreed to do so by 2022. Mr Lee said he told Mr Morrison that he hopes their officials can begin discussions soon.

The Prime Minister had hosted Mr Morrison to breakfast at the Istana before their meeting.

Australia is one of a few countries with whom Singapore meets at the leaders' level every year, Mr Lee noted, adding that both countries are natural partners.

"We see eye to eye on many issues, including the importance of an open, rules-based and inclusive multilateral system," he said.

Mr Lee added that he is happy to meet Mr Morrison so early in his new term, "to give fresh impetus to our relationship".

Mr Morrison is accompanied by his wife Jennifer Morrison; Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham; Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne; and officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.