PM Lee meets Merkel, May and Costa, ahead of Asia-Europe Meeting summit

Federal Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a Singapore-Germany bilateral meeting in Brussels, Belgium before the Asia-Europe Meeting. ST PHOTO: WEE JIN ONG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a Singapore-UK bilateral meeting in Brussels, Belgium. ST PHOTO: WEE JIN ONG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa at a Singapore-Portugal bilateral meeting in Brussels, Belgium. ST PHOTO: WEE JIN ONG

BRUSSELS - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM Theresa May and Portuguese PM Antonio Costa on Thursday (Oct 18) evening, ahead of the opening of the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) summit.

During their meeting, Dr Merkel and Mr Lee welcomed the signing of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which will take place on Friday (Oct 19), and reaffirmed the strong bilateral relations between Singapore and Germany, PM Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin said.

These ties span trade and investment, science and technology, education and culture.

"Both leaders underscored their shared commitment to multilateralism, free trade and the rule of law, and had a frank exchange of views on developments in their respective regions," Ms Chang added.

PM Lee and Mrs May also took stock of bilateral ties during their meeting, their second this year following their meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.

"Both leaders reaffirmed the close and excellent ties between Singapore and the United Kingdom, and welcomed closer cooperation between the UK and Asean," Ms Chang said.

"They also discussed regional developments, and reiterated their shared belief in the rules-based multilateral system."

PM Lee also met Portuguese PM Antonio Costa for the first time. Both prime ministers noted that their countries served as gateways for their respective regions.

They also looked forward to closer economic cooperation between their countries, Ms Chang said.

PM Lee also attended the Asem opening ceremony and gala dinner.

The Asem summit traditionally provides an opportunity for bilateral meetings between participating leaders from the informal forum's 53 partners.

This year's meeting sees an unusually high turnout from European leaders, as it is held in Brussels and a European Council meeting - involving heads of government from the EU member states - was convened just ahead of Asem.

The theme of this year's summit is Global Partners for Global Challenges, and issues up for discussion on Friday range from climate change and sustainable development to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and connectivity between the two continents.

In a speech welcoming Asem leaders on Thursday, European Council president Donald Tusk also underlined the importance of a rules-based multilateral system.

"Whatever the subject of our discussion, let me stress how important it is to base our common actions on rules. Because only rules-based solutions can stand the test of time and protect our people in the long term," he said.

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