Singapore, France like-minded partners who agree on importance of multilateral system: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend Bastille Day celebrations on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 14, 2018.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend Bastille Day celebrations on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 14, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Bastille Day celebrations on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Bastille Day celebrations on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14, 2018.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Troops on the Champs-Elysees during the Bastille Day parade in Paris yesterday. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was a guest of honour at France's National Day Parade at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron.
Troops on the Champs-Elysees during the Bastille Day parade in Paris yesterday. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was a guest of honour at France's National Day Parade at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
RSAF participated in the French National Day parade with one of the M-346 Advanced Trainer aircraft in the Singapore-France combined flypast on Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14, 2018.
RSAF participated in the French National Day parade with one of the M-346 Advanced Trainer aircraft in the Singapore-France combined flypast on Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14, 2018.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
The Patrouille de France military aircraft passing over the Louvre Museum's pyramid during the traditional Bastille Day military parade. The event featured about 4,000 soldiers, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 aircraft and 30 helicopters. Among these we
The Patrouille de France military aircraft passing over the Louvre Museum's pyramid during the traditional Bastille Day military parade. The event featured about 4,000 soldiers, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 aircraft and 30 helicopters. Among these were the Republic of Singapore Air Force's 150 Squadron. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Singapore's Flag Party, led by Contingent Commander Major Nicholas Tong Jun, carrying the Republic's flag at the parade. Left: A combined flypast involving an RSAF M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer and five French Air Force Alpha Jets.
Singapore's Flag Party, led by Contingent Commander Major Nicholas Tong Jun, carrying the Republic's flag at the parade. Left: A combined flypast involving an RSAF M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer and five French Air Force Alpha Jets.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Republic must work with those who agree on rules-based multilateral system, he says

The growing wave of populism globally means that Singapore has to work with like-minded partners - including Europe, Japan, Asean and China, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview with the Singapore media on Saturday (June 14), the final day of his visit to France.

These are partners who agree that a rules-based multilateral system is important, and France is among them, he added.

"It may be outdated but we cannot throw (the multilateral system) out and throw out the baby with the bathwater. I think Europe is like-minded, certainly France believes this passionately, so does Germany's Angela Merkel, and we hope that will provide us with the basis to work with Europe and also enable Europe to pursue this role on the world stage," he said.

He noted that Europe has its own tensions, as individual countries in the region have their own radical rightist and nativist movements.

"So one of the things we hope for is that the European countries are able to manage their social and political tensions, so they do not end up with radical governments.

"Otherwise, the governments may be like-minded with you but if they can't hold their own domestically, I think they will not be on a strong platform."

Mr Lee, who was in Paris at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron to attend France's National Day Parade on Saturday as a guest of honour, said Singapore-France ties are very good.

Upon arriving in Paris on Friday, Mr Lee met French industry leaders and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. He then attended an official welcome ceremony at the Hotel National des Invalides, and at 9.30pm had dinner with Mr Macron. He was accompanied by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, and other officials.

 
 
 
 

As the programme was behind time, a joint press briefing that the two leaders were scheduled to hold before the dinner was cancelled.

Mr Lee said he and Mr Macron talked about the two countries' security cooperation, particularly the Cazaux Air Base deployment.

"We've been there 20 years and we are very grateful for the generosity of our host and it has been a tremendous help to us, producing many pilots and a fair number of babies as well," he said with a smile. Some 190 Singapore pilots have trained at the base, and 191 babies have been born to the pilots there.

Mr Lee added that he and Mr Macron also talked about economic cooperation, and how Singapore and France are pursuing new avenues of collaboration in areas such as innovation and the environment.

Taking a broader view, he said France has always seen itself as having a role beyond Europe and beyond its own national concerns.

"(Former French President Charles) de Gaulle certainly had that view and the French certainly have always maintained this self-image and this perception of where they ought to be in the world. They want to participate in East Asia, they want to have an influence. Even in security matters, they think they should contribute something and they do have forces, they have resources," he said.

"The more we care about one another's parts of the world, the more stable, secure and connected the world will be."

As the coordinator for European Union-Asean relations this year, Singapore will also look at how it can help establish a framework to restart talks for an EU-Asean free trade agreement, said Mr Lee. While the idea has been mooted, a deal has remained elusive thus far.

"If we can identify what the shape of the deal can be like, where the major opportunities are, (where) our trade-offs are, then I hope we will have better successes there."

During the visit, the two leaders also issued a roadmap for cooperation on digital innovation, Internet governance and cyber security. The roadmap reaffirms commitment to an open and secure cyberspace.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 15, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore, France like-minded partners: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe