PM Lee underlines importance of US ties

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PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to reporters during the wrap-up interview. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

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 (Oct 25 US time).

It is therefore important for Singapore to sustain good bilateral relations and for the United States to remain engaged in Asia, he added, as he summed up his visit to the United States in an interview with Singapore media.

PM Lee said his official working visit had been a useful trip, especially as President Donald Trump is about to travel to Asia in a little over a week.

"I think we have been able to put our points across that they understand that 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," he said.

"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.

Mr Lee and Mr Trump also 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.

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

Over 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 added.

Mrs Lee, who is accompanying PM Lee Hsien Loong on his official working visit to Washington, was hosted to tea by Mrs Karen Pence, the wife of Vice-President Mike Pence, at the US Naval Observatory on Wednesday (Oct 25) morning. PHOTO: PMO

On his six-day visit, which ends on Thursday, PM Lee met President Trump at the White House, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.

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

At the CFR, 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 is closely linked to Asia.

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

On Wednesday, PM Lee had 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.

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.

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The members of Congress also expressed appreciation for and affirmed Singapore's close partnership with the US built up over 51 years, and discussed regional and international developments with him.

PM Lee will also meet Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday before returning to Singapore.

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