Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade)
Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence
The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Defence
The Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
1. Singapore and Australian Ministers met in Singapore today for the 10th meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee (SAJMC). This is the 20th year of the SAJMC. Ministers celebrated the enduring friendship, longstanding partnership and close collaboration between both countries, anchored in shared strategic interests and strong economic complementarity. They recalled the 1996 New Partnership Agreement which elevated bilateral relations and established the SAJMC. In 2003, both countries signed the landmark Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), which enhanced economic flows and promoted trade and investments. In 2015, both countries embarked on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), with the key CSP agreements signed at the Singapore-Australia Leaders’ Summit in 2016. Over the past 20 years, the SAJMC has provided the framework for and played a vital role in enhancing bilateral cooperation, benefitting the two countries and their peoples.
2. The Ministers noted that the CSP has broadened and deepened cooperation in defence and security, innovation, people-to-people links and trade and economics, including through a significant upgrade of SAFTA. They welcomed the excellent progress of collaborative activities under the CSP ten-year roadmap and renewed their commitment to advancing bilateral initiatives under the CSP to enhance the security and prosperity of the peoples of Singapore and Australia. They tasked officials to further review and renew the roadmap and report on potential new areas for collaboration at the next SAJMC.
Trade, Investment and Economics
3. The Ministers reiterated their vision for a Closer Economic Relationship to bring about greater economic integration, enhance the environment for business and promote growth in trade, investment and tourism. They welcomed progress in both countries on the ratification of the upgraded SAFTA, which was signed in October 2016, following the conclusion of the 3rd SAFTA Review. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to enhance aviation and maritime connectivity, to work towards better access to financial and capital markets and to deepen private sector collaboration focussed on unlocking opportunities for productive investment. They also welcomed enhanced cooperation under the Tourism Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Ministers Lim and Ciobo.
4. The Ministers reaffirmed that a stable, prosperous and rules-based region which supports and promotes free trade and open markets is critical to Singapore and Australia. The Ministers agreed that Australia and Singapore will continue to cooperate closely to advance their shared interests including to fight protectionism and address trade-distorting measures in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G20 and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
5. The Ministers expressed a shared belief in the value of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and reaffirmed the determination of the TPP 11 to work toward an announcement, in the margins of the APEC Leaders’ Summit in November, on a pathway to bring the agreement into force.
6. They highlighted the importance of the TPP, along with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), in liberalising trade and in setting high standard rules to underpin regional economic integration. They reaffirmed their support for the work in APEC to develop and implement work programs toward the realisation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
7. The innovation and science pillar has seen significant progress. The Ministers committed to finalise negotiations on a Master Agreement between the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), and noted the successful completion of three joint workshops in the areas of data science, marine science and advanced manufacturing/health and biosecurity. The Ministers looked forward to the development of joint proposals and their appropriate resourcing to further the partnership in the identified areas. They welcomed the growth of innovation partnerships, including between the National University of Singapore (NUS) Centre for Quantum Technologies and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) on satellite technologies, and agreements to enhance cooperation between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and both the National Research Foundation of Singapore (NRF) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). They noted that four companies have already graduated from the Landing Pad opened in March 2017, resulting in commercial partnerships between Singaporean and Australian companies. A second batch of six companies has begun operations.
Defence and Security
8. The Ministers recognised the enduring contribution of the close and longstanding Singapore-Australia defence relationship to regional stability. They warmly welcomed the signing of the Agreement concerning the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Flying Training Institute Detachment at Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce (RAAF Base Pearce), elevating the previous RAAF Base Pearce MOU to treaty status, and extending the RSAF’s training at RAAF Base Pearce for another 25 years. They also welcomed the good progress made by both sides on the five areas of defence cooperation under the CSP. Specifically, the ongoing implementation of the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative is on track, with construction of advanced training facilities to begin in 2019, providing benefit to both the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Australian Defence Force. These projects, as well as the increase in SAF troops training in Central and North Queensland, are expected to bring economic benefits to communities in both regions. The Ministers also looked forward to upgrading the MOU into a treaty, as a high priority. The Ministers noted Singapore and Australia’s close cooperation under the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), as well as in joint deployments in the Middle East as part of the Defeat-ISIS coalition.
9. The Ministers recognised the interdependence in cyberspace and the shared interest in protecting critical infrastructure and acknowledged the importance of an open, interoperable, reliable and secure global Internet that supports innovation, economic growth and social development. Both countries recognise the benefits of cybersecurity cooperation to secure the future of cyberspace internationally and plan to co-organise a cyber-risk reduction workshop for ASEAN in December 2017. The Ministers welcomed the signing of an MOU on Cyber Security Cooperation in June 2017.
10. The Ministers recognised the importance of international cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts. Both Singapore and Australia stand ready to support the Philippine government in its ongoing fight against IS-linked militants in Marawi City, which is critical to prevent the spread of terrorism in the region. They welcomed the holding of the second Singapore-Australia Counter Terrorism Dialogue to be hosted by Australia in November 2017. Both countries also look forward to Australia’s hosting of the Counter Terrorism Conference to be held in conjunction with the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in March 2018.
11. The Ministers noted the success of the first iteration of the Foreign Service Officer Exchange programme between Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in 2017. They also welcomed further collaboration on technical assistance to third countries in the region.
12. The Ministers welcomed the commencement of the Work and Holiday Visa Programme on 1 August 2017, which fosters interactions between young Singaporeans and Australians. They also welcomed Australia’s decision to offer from 1 January 2018 a six-year visa for Singaporeans. The Ministers noted the success of the New Colombo Plan, which has supported more than 1,000 Australian undergraduate students to undertake short-term study in Singapore between 2014 and 2017. The Ministers commended the work of the Australia-Singapore Arts Group (ASAG) in boosting bilateral exchanges in arts and culture, such as a joint artist-in-residency exchange between the National Museum of Singapore and the Australian War Memorial to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. ASAG will also organise a Cultural Leaders’ Forum in September 2017 in Adelaide, Australia, which will be opened by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu and Minister for the Arts, Mitch Fifield. The Ministers welcomed the Singapore-Australia High-Level Women’s Dialogue on women’s representation on corporate boards that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, Josephine Teo and Minister Bishop would co-chair on 21 August 2017, after the SAJMC.
Global and Regional Developments
13. The Ministers discussed regional and global developments, and reaffirmed that a stable, prosperous and rules-based region which promotes free and open trade is critical to Singapore and Australia. They agreed that the United States continues to play an integral role in ensuring a stable and prosperous Asia, and welcomed China’s efforts in promoting greater regional cooperation and development through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other such initiatives.
14. The Ministers expressed deep concern over the repeated and destabilising actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including its two intercontinental ballistic missile launches in July 2017. This followed numerous ballistic missile launches, and two nuclear tests in 2016. These illegal actions present a grave threat to regional peace and stability and are flagrant breaches of United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs). The Ministers strongly urged the DPRK to desist from further testing and provocations. They underscored their commitment to the full and effective implementation of all relevant UNSCRs to maintain pressure on the DPRK to immediately return to the path of peace, through dialogue towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
15. The Ministers underlined the importance of ASEAN Centrality and unity, and committed to strengthen ASEAN-led processes such as the East Asia Summit, ADMM-Plus and the ASEAN Regional Forum. The Ministers looked forward to Australia’s hosting of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in March 2018.
16. The Ministers affirmed their shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
17. The Ministers underlined Australia’s and Singapore’s shared interests in freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded trade in the South China Sea. They reaffirmed the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of activities. They also 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, binding, Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, in accordance with international law.
18. The Ministers looked forward to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Sydney in March 2018 for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. Australian Ministers invited their Singaporean counterparts to Australia for the 11th SAJMC in 2019.