Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong led a Singaporean ministerial delegation to Australia on a three day visit for the 7th Singapore-Australia Annual Leaders Meeting.
PM Lee, accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, visited Australia between Oct. 16 and 18.
Sydney and Canberra
This was the first Singapore-Australia Annual Leaders' meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, whose Labor Party came to power after defeating Scott Morrison in May earlier this year.
While in Canberra, PM Lee and Albanese observed as Gan and Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell signed the Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement (GEA).
The GEA outlines a set of green economy principles and the scope of cooperation in several areas:
- Trade and investment
- Standards and conformance
- Green and transition finance
- Carbon markets
- Clean energy, decarbonisation and technology
- Skills and capabilities
- Business engagements and partnerships
According to MTI, the GEA will reduce barriers to cross-border trade in clean energy, green trade and investment.
This will help to create green growth opportunities and good jobs, while also promoting decarbonisation and supporting Singapore's transition into a green economy.
The agreement also has 17 joint initiatives as part of initial efforts to work together, on green economy related areas such as environmental goods and services, sustainable agriculture food systems, green and transition finance, and cross-border electricity trade.
Singapore previously pioneered an agreement with Laos to import up to 100 megawatts of hydropower.
One interacting, interdependent world
During the press conference, Albanese opened by quoting former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew: "We are one interacting, interdependent world. The problems besetting the world are transnational, and the solutions must be transnational."
PM Lee said that he appreciated Australia's support for Singapore's military training. Singapore is also ready to provide assistance for flood relief efforts in New South Wales and Victoria, should it be necessary.
Both Albanese and PM Lee emphasised the GEA's focus on innovation and its economic aspect. Albanese said that "climate change has environmental consequences, but it needs economic solutions".
He also expressed his excitement at the prospect of projects like Sun Cable, which is a plan to transfer electricity generated from solar power via undersea cable from Australia to Singapore.
PM Lee also spoke about the GEA's role as a pathfinder deal; hoping it would encourage other countries to see what Singapore and Australia had been able to do, and consider whether similar deals were possible, either with Singapore or with other countries.
The prime ministers also fielded questions about a recent data breach from Singtel owned mobile operator Optus, as well as the relationship between the two countries, and China.
On the Optus breach, Albanese said that it was an important wake up call for Australian companies regarding both cybersecurity and data privacy, while PM Lee said that Singapore's cybersecurity and info-comm agencies were ready to provide support should it be required.
On China, Albanese said that he intended to take a mature approach to relations with the world, and he intended to cooperate with China were possible, but stand up for Australia's interests where necessary.
PM Lee said that he was concerned that national security concerns, particularly between the United States and China, might lead to less interdependency, and thus global instability.
When asked about the contrast between previous Australian government's approach to China versus the current government, PM Lee demurred, saying "We never give ourselves score cards, much less our friends".
New research available
Singapore and Australia also inked several new agreements that will expand research cooperation on multiple fronts.
One is the Master Research Collaboration Agreement between A*Star and Commonwealth Protection Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
This agreement will target areas such as low emissions technology, alternative proteins for food, and the future of materials in advanced manufacturing including lithium battery recycling.
Another new opportunity comes in the form of the Australia-Singapore Synchrotron Access Agreement, which gives Singaporean scientists access to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation's synchrotron, a kind of particle accelerator, in Melbourne.
PM Lee also visited the Australian War Memorial on Oct 18, and was in Sydney from Oct 16 to 17, where he held discussions with Lowy Institute and Asia Society Australia.He also visited the Sydney Opera House, where he caught a sighting of the resident seal.
Top image via Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) & Lee Hsien Loong/Facebook