Renewed US, Singapore MOU to include climate change

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington on Sept 27, 2021.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington on Sept 27, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - Singapore and the United States on Monday (Sept 27) renewed the two countries' Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Third Country Training Programme (TCTP), announcing a decision for the partnership to include a new emphasis on climate change and environmental sustainability.

Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed the renewal of the MOU in Washington.

The meeting was "insightful and productive", Mr Blinken said in brief remarks at the ceremony held in the chandeliered, pastel-coloured Benjamin Franklin room on the eighth floor of the State Department.

The meeting covered "everything from the important work in our bilateral relationship following on Vice-President Harris's visit to Singapore, to work that we're doing together in the region both directly as well as through Asean", he said.

"(It) really affirmed the very strong partnership between the United States and Singapore, and a shared commitment to peace, to prosperity, to a free and open Indo-Pacific."

Mr Blinken mentioned "a number of important initiatives… particularly our work to build supply chain resilience, to potentially cooperate more when it comes to space, and, of course, the vital work that we're all doing to bring Covid-19 to an end and to address the challenges posed by climate change".

The two also discussed regional challenges including in Myanmar, and "the importance of upholding basic maritime principles in the region".

"Singaporean, American experts working together, teaching together, sharing together... has been a very powerful thing," Mr Blinken said.

"What we've agreed going forward is that we will make sure that there is also an emphasis now on dealing with the climate crisis and environmental sustainability."

Dr Balakrishnan said that the US and Singapore are "looking to the future", dealing with issues including climate change, pandemic preparedness, supply chain resilience, and a new partnership for growth and innovation.

Work in traditional areas of the US-Singapore relationship in defence and security has also been a "huge reservoir of trust and goodwill", he added.

A lot of Singapore's success "can actually be traced to the United States' role in establishing a rules-based multilateral system, economic integration, free trade, and investments", the foreign minister said.

"It's no accident the United States is the largest foreign investor in Singapore, and remains... a major trading partner to us."

The third-country training programme was first established in 2012 and renewed in 2015 and 2018.

Under the programme, Singapore and the US have trained more than 1,500 government officials from countries in the region and worked in areas like cyber security, health security and smart cities, Mr Blinken said.

Over 50 agencies in both countries have jointly conducted more than 57 programmes - ranging from humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and cybercrime, to public health, trade facilitation, smart cities and the digital economy - for participants from Asean member states, Timor-Leste and the Asean Secretariat.

Prior to Monday's meeting, Mr Blinken and Dr Balakrishnan had also met last week at a US-Asean meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.