Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison held the 5th Singapore-Australia Leaders’ Meeting via videoconference on 23 March 2020. The annual Leaders’ Meeting was established under the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) for the Prime Ministers of both countries to discuss bilateral cooperation and exchange views on regional and international developments. This year, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the two Prime Ministers decided to hold the Leaders’ Meeting virtually via videoconference. This virtual meeting shows that in this digital age, government-to-government business can continue despite the adverse circumstances. It also reflects the shared commitment to advance bilateral relations, even as both sides deal with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two Prime Ministers reaffirmed the excellent state of bilateral relations and reviewed the good progress on the wide-ranging cooperation under the CSP since its establishment in 2015. They expressed their joint commitment to deepen and expand bilateral cooperation in all areas. In particular, the two Prime Ministers welcomed the conclusion of several key agreements in conjunction with the Leaders’ Meeting. First, they witnessed the signing of the Treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development, which is a key deliverable of the CSP. Second, they announced the conclusion of negotiations of a bilateral Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), and seven MOUs under the ambit of the DEA. They also agreed to establish a new “Digital Economy” pillar under the CSP to supplement the existing four pillars. Third, they welcomed the signing of MOUs on cybersecurity, as well as food safety and standards.
The two Prime Ministers also discussed new areas of bilateral cooperation. They agreed that there was potential to collaborate further in low-emissions solutions and agreed to conclude a MOU in 2020.
In addition to bilateral cooperation, the two leaders also exchanged views on key regional and global developments. They noted that the COVID-19 pandemic was a serious public health crisis and agreed to continue sharing best practices to tackle the pandemic. They also agreed on the importance of keeping markets open and supply chains functioning to support the delivery of supplies essential for dealing with the pandemic.
Following the Leaders’ Meeting, the two Prime Ministers issued a Joint Statement on the outcomes of the meeting. The full text of the Joint Statement is appended.
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
23 MARCH 2020
. . . . .
Joint Statement by the Prime Ministers of Australia and Singapore
The Australia-Singapore Virtual Annual Leaders’ Meeting was convened via video conference between Canberra and Singapore on 23 March 2020. The Honourable Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia, and His Excellency Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, agreed to expand the two countries’ strong bilateral relationship and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in several areas of common interest. At a time of global uncertainty, Australia and Singapore both offer a model of good governance and productive international cooperation. In light of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, this Virtual Annual Leaders’ Meeting demonstrated the conviction of Australia and Singapore to continue with government-to-government business, and uphold the excellent momentum of our CSP, even as we each deal with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic at home.
- The Prime Ministers discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on communities, health systems, economies and global supply chains, underlining the importance of close consultation on the impact and the long-term efforts to build resilience and preparedness. They agreed that Singapore and Australia would continue to engage closely to share best practices and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Ministers reaffirmed the importance of keeping markets open and supply chains functioning to support the delivery of supplies essential for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. They underlined that a stable and open global trading system will be crucial for a global economic recovery once the pandemic is brought under control, and agreed to work together to that end, including in APEC and at the G20.
- Representing substantial and meaningful progress under the CSP, the Prime Ministers witnessed the signing of the Treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development. Building on 30 years of Singapore’s training in Australia, the Treaty underpins the AUD$2.25 billion investment to jointly develop military training areas, as well as advanced training facilities in Central and North Queensland, which will benefit both armed forces and deepen defence cooperation. The Prime Ministers also welcomed the 30th anniversary of the Singapore Armed Forces’ training at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland which will be celebrated later this year.
- Delivering on last year’s joint commitment to facilitate digital trade, the Prime Ministers announced the conclusion of negotiations on a bilateral Digital Economy Agreement. The Agreement will enable interoperability between digital systems such as e-invoicing and e-payments, promote cross border data flows, and address emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence. The Prime Ministers also announced the conclusion of seven Memoranda of Understanding, ranging from Trade Facilitation to Personal Data Protection, under the ambit of this Digital Economy Agreement, which will deliver tangible benefits for Singaporean and Australian businesses and people. The Prime Ministers welcomed the establishment of a new “Digital Economy” pillar under the CSP to supplement the existing four pillars.
- Sharing a resolve to promote an open, interoperable, resilient and secure cyberspace, the Prime Ministers announced the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding on Cyber Security Cooperation, which will enhance information exchanges on cyber and critical technology priorities, best practices and training, and advance bilateral operational sharing and cooperation to strengthen cyber resilience, as well as joint regional capacity building efforts.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed the signing of a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding between Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Food Agency to promote cooperation in food safety and standards. The Memorandum of Understanding will also explore new areas of cooperation, including in novel foods and alternative proteins.
- The Prime Ministers committed to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding in 2020 to drive cooperation on low‑emissions solutions, including new and emerging low‑emissions technologies. Australia and Singapore will work together on practical projects or initiatives in developing hydrogen markets, supply chains and standards; Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS); and renewable electricity trade.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore