Joint Communique by the Prime Ministers of Australia and Singapore on the state of bilateral relations

Message from the PM
13 Oct 2016
Prime Minister, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Lee Hsien Loong met today in Canberra to strengthen bilateral cooperation under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  

Recalling the Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), signed in June 2015, the Prime Ministers reaffirmed the Australia-Singapore partnership’s enduring foundation of shared interests and complementary strengths: Australia and Singapore are natural partners with common interests and a common desire for a prosperous and stable region.

The Prime Ministers commended the sustained efforts of both nations to realise the many benefits of closer cooperation, welcoming strong achievements, particularly in trade and investment; innovation and science; defence and security; and people-to-people links. Together, the agreements signed this week represent the most substantial upgrade in the Australia-Singapore relationship in a generation.

The Prime Ministers applauded the efforts of their Ministers to expand economic cooperation, including through a comprehensive update of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) to deepen commercial links, reduce red tape, and provide greater opportunities for exporters and investors. The revised SAFTA will also facilitate trade in the digital age, which is a significant step forward in the economic integration of Singapore and Australia.

The Prime Ministers also discussed potential economic opportunities and investment partnerships in Australia, noting the recent visit by a Singaporean delegation to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia to assess commercial opportunities.

Singapore and Australia share an unwavering commitment to the principles of free and open trade, including through the conclusion of multilateral trade agreements to enhance regional and global economic growth. The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the early conclusion of an ambitious Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement and called for the prompt entry into force of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement to usher in a new era of economic growth and opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region.  

Signaling their commitment to innovation, science and technology, the Prime Ministers welcomed the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation on Innovation and Science. The Prime Ministers agreed that fostering further collaboration among scientific, industrial and financial sectors was vital to transitioning both countries to agile 21stcentury economies and to raising international competitiveness and productivity. The Prime Ministers welcomed the establishment of the Australian Landing Pad in Singapore, the region’s premier innovation hub for market ready start-ups, as well as the strengthening partnerships between institutions and agencies.

The Prime Ministers discussed Australia and Singapore’s increasing strategic convergence.  They agreed on the need to deepen our collaboration to continue to strengthen regional institutions, such as the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus.  The Prime Ministers affirmed the importance of ASEAN Centrality in regional stability and prosperity, and commended Australia and Singapore’s excellent partnership as co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. They reaffirmed Australia and Singapore’s commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and looked forward to the Special ASEAN-Australia Summit in Australia in 2018, during Singapore’s year as ASEAN Chair.

The Prime Ministers underlined Australia and Singapore’s shared interests in freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded trade in the South China Sea. They called on all parties concerned to resolve disputes in the South China Sea peacefully, with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes and in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They urged all parties to avoid actions that would escalate tensions, including the further militarisation of outposts in the South China Sea. They reaffirmed their support for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the expeditious conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.  

The Prime Ministers shared their concerns about the increasing threat of regional terrorism, noting the importance of intensifying intelligence and information sharing arrangements, and enhancing collaboration to counter violent extremism. They welcomed the inaugural counter-terrorism dialogue held this year and undertook to work more closely under the recent MOU on counter-terrorism cooperation.

The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their historic decision to significantly expand defence cooperation, and welcomed the substantial elevation in the defence relationship which builds on the MOU on Defence Cooperation signed by the Prime Ministers in 2008. They welcomed the conclusion of an MOU on Military Training and Training Area Development, which will significantly increase and enhance the Singapore Armed Forces’ training in Australia and include the joint development of training areas and facilities.

The Prime Ministers welcomed the signing of the MOUs on Exchanges of Military and Civilian Personnel, and Sharing of Military Intelligence Assessments, which attest to high levels of trust and mutual respect between our defence establishments. The Prime Ministers also recalled our joint operational cooperation in Timor Leste and Afghanistan, and positively noted the good progress of our shared deployment in the Middle East and in implementing the Defence Science and Technology (S&T) MOU that was signed in July 2015; and the commitment from both defence establishments to develop Exercise Trident as the signature bilateral joint military exercise and to hold a pilot Track 1.5 Security Dialogue.    

The Prime Ministers welcomed the signing of the MOU on Combatting Transnational Drug Crime and Developing Cooperation, which will improve collaboration between the Australian Federal Police and Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau on information sharing, operational cooperation, and capacity building and professional development in the area of drug enforcement.

The Prime Ministers positively noted Australia and Singapore’s extensive people-to-people links, especially our exceptional education, tourism and arts and culture cooperation. The Prime Ministers reiterated their support for Australia’s New Colombo Plan, and the Pilot Internship Program that gives Singaporean students in Australia internship opportunities with leading Australian companies. They noted the progress to further cooperation between the regulatory agencies for tertiary and private education in Singapore and Australia. The Prime Ministers agreed that the Work and Holiday Maker Programme would further enhance interactions between Singaporeans and Australians, and noted the intention of both sides to work towards an electronic multi-year visa arrangement for Singapore nationals to enter Australia.

The Prime Ministers welcomed the establishment of the Australia Singapore Arts Group to deepen and broaden cultural collaboration. Both encouraged further arts and cultural engagement, such as the performance of the Australian World Orchestra in Singapore on 1 October, and the ongoing Capturing Asia: Willie Phua, News Cameraman display in Canberra by the National Museum of Singapore in collaboration with the National Museum of Australia.

The Prime Ministers looked forward to further talks in Singapore in 2017, and tasked Ministers and officials with continuing to work closely to advance the initiatives agreed under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.