SINGAPORE - Singapore and Austria are discussing an agreement in digitalisation, an area in which both countries have "more than an interest, almost an obsession", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Aug 30).
"We are discussing a memorandum of understanding between our two countries and I'm sure we will be able to work out one which is substantial and valuable to all sides," said PM Lee at a lunch he hosted for Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is on a three-day official visit to Singapore ending on Friday (Aug 31).
The free trade agreement between Singapore and the European Union will also be signed this year during Austria's term as president of the EU, he added.
Mr Kurz, for his part, said the EU-Singapore FTA was in everyone's interest.
He said: "As EU president, we will do our best to ensure the FTA between the EU and Singapore. I think this is in the interest of all of us."
Both leaders, in their speeches during the toast, said that Austria and Singapore could work together to boost cooperation and strengthen ties between Europe and South-east Asia, in the course of Austria's EU presidency and Singapore's Asean chairmanship.
PM Lee said Austria and Singapore can do more to create new areas of cooperation between each other and their regions.
Similarly, Mr Kurz said that both regions can work together to better coordinate their efforts in tackling climate change and improving cybersecurity.
Mr Kurz said: "Enhancing the relationship between the EU and Asia, and more importantly the Asean countries, is very important to us."
While Austria hopes to learn from Singapore in areas such as education and government technology, it also hopes to contribute in engineering equipment, medical technology and also infrastructure, he added.
After lunch on Thursday, he visited the Singapore Polytechnic to observe how they use technology to aid teaching and learning.
PM Lee noted that many Austrian civil engineering technologies have been used in Singapore.
For instance, the skylights at Changi Airport's Terminal 3, which adjust automatically to the sun's position and allows soft natural lighting to enter, were designed by Austrian lighting design expert Bartenbach.
PM Lee also zeroed in on Austria and Singapore's efforts at digital transformation, citing how Austria launched its Digital Roadmap to help citizens and businesses to benefit from digitalisation two years ago.
Similarly, Singapore launched its Digital Readiness Blueprint which set out the Government's plans to prepare Singaporeans and Singapore companies for a digital world two months ago.
It also has similar roadmaps to transform the public service and be a leading digital economy.
Austria also set up a new ministry to coordinate its digital transformation efforts, including putting in place e-government services and adapting its legal framework.
Likewise, Singapore has its Smart Nation and Digital Government Group under the Prime Minister's Office.
PM Lee said: "Our two countries may be miles apart, but we are connected in many ways."
On Thursday, Mr Kurz witnessed the signing of five memoranda of understanding between Singaporean start-ups and Austria's Global Incubator Network, which connects start-ups with investors.