- Australia and Singapore Ministers met in Sydney today for the 11th meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee (SAJMC). The Ministers acknowledged the longstanding friendship and deep bilateral collaboration anchored in our shared strategic and economic interests, and our shared concern for the security, stability and prosperity of our region.
- Australia and Singapore share our deepest sympathies with those affected by the devastating terrorist attack in Christchurch and share the grief of New Zealanders and Muslim communities the world over. In the shadow of this horrific attack, the Ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to inclusion and diversity, and to working together for a tolerant, open and resilient Indo-Pacific region. They directed officials to explore options to address the challenges to our countries and the region posed by terror, violent extremism and intolerance, including by ensuring that technology firms prevent the exploitation of internet technologies for terrorist purposes.
- The Ministers recalled the Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) signed by Prime Ministers in June 2015. They welcomed the good progress made under the four pillars of the CSP: economic and trade; defence, security and foreign policy; innovation and science; and people-to-people links. The Ministers identified future areas for collaboration under the CSP.
Trade, Investment and Economics
- The Ministers reiterated their vision for a Closer Economic Relationship. They welcomed the entry into force of the Agreement to Amend SAFTA in December 2017 and progress towards mutual recognition arrangements for accountants and engineers. The Ministers also looked forward to future discussions on an Open Skies Agreement and a comprehensive review of the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) as agreed under the CSP Roadmap.
- The Ministers reaffirmed a stable, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, which supports and promotes free trade and open markets, is critical to Australia and Singapore. The Ministers agreed to fight protectionism and continue to promote trade, investment and services facilitation and liberalisation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the World Trade Organization and the G20. The Ministers agreed to continue to work with partners in the region to protect and strengthen the open, rules-based multilateral trading system.
- The Ministers affirmed their commitment to deepening regional economic integration. In this regard, they welcomed the entry into force of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on 30 December 2018. The Ministers also affirmed their determination to conclude a modern, high quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement by end-2019. They also looked forward to further progress on the Second Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), which remains the most progressive ASEAN+1 FTA and reflects the close ties between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand.
- The Ministers welcomed the practical steps Australia and Singapore are taking to reduce barriers to digital trade, including the ongoing ASEAN-Australia Digital Trade Standards Cooperation Initiative, ambitious rules in our trade agreements, and also taking a leading role in negotiating new rules for digital trade through the WTO Joint Statement on E-Commerce Initiative and cooperation on digital trade standards. Ministers recalled that Leaders, in November 2018, had also agreed to pursue further new collaboration on the digital economy in a comprehensive way.
- The Ministers noted that Australia and Singapore have benefited from the bilateral food trade. They recognised that there is scope to step up cooperation on food safety and security, which would allow both countries to improve access to each other’s food markets.
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security
- The Ministers recognised the enduring contribution of the close and longstanding Singapore-Australia defence relationship to regional stability. They welcomed the deepening defence relationship, embodied by the solid progress made by both sides on all five areas of defence cooperation under the CSP. They also 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 developments to the Middle East as part of the Defeat-ISIS coalition.
- The Ministers welcomed the entry into force of the Agreement concerning the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Flying Training Institute Detachment at Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing implementation of the Australia Singapore Military Training Initiative (ASMTI). The construction of advanced training facilities in Central and North Queensland, which will benefit both the Australian Defence Force and Singapore Armed Forces, will commence later this year. They also reinforced their determination to elevate the MOU on Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia to treaty status as a priority in 2019.
- The Ministers acknowledged deepening cooperation on law enforcement, including enhanced engagement, criminal intelligence sharing, and joint capability development and training. They recognised enhanced cooperation on cyber security, money laundering, science and technology, future policing, leadership, and tactical training from 2019.
Science and Innovation
- The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of international science and technology collaboration to economic prosperity. They recognised that significant progress has been achieved on bilateral innovation and science collaboration, including new joint research, since the inaugural Joint Strategic Dialogue on Innovation in August 2016. The Ministers looked forward to the second Dialogue in 2019.
- The Ministers warmly welcomed the launch of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) ASEAN Office in Singapore in 2018, and deepening relationship between CSIRO and the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR). The Ministers noted the Good Science = Great Business festival in September 2018, which generated increased interest among research institutions in both countries to explore new areas of mutual benefit, including food and energy.
- The Ministers reaffirmed the warm and close personal links between Australians and Singaporeans. They noted the six-year visa for Singaporeans had commenced on 1 January 2018, and the continued cooperation to enhance travel arrangements for both Australians and Singaporeans. Ministers reflected on the growing links between young people in Australia and Singapore, noting that, in the past five years, the New Colombo Plan has made awards for more than 2,100 young Australians to undertake study programs in Singapore. The Ministers acknowledged the blossoming of arts and culture collaboration under the CSP, and the stewardship of the Australia-Singapore Arts Group (ASAG). They noted the fifth ASAG meeting would take place in 2019.
Global and regional developments
- The Ministers discussed regional and global developments, and reaffirmed their commitment to a stable, prosperous and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. They acknowledged the importance of a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship through dialogue, cooperation and engagement. In this regard, the Ministers emphasised the importance of sustained and constructive engagement of the region by the United States and China.
- 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).
- The Ministers underlined Australia and Singapore’s shared interests in freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded trade in the South China Sea. They also emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint. They urged all claimants to take meaningful steps to ease tensions and build trust, including through dialogue. The Ministers acknowledged work towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and called for an effective Code that is consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
- The Australian Ministers congratulated their counterparts on Singapore’s successful year as Chair of ASEAN in 2018. They reaffirmed their commitment to ASEAN Centrality, and to further strengthen the East Asia Summit as the region’s premier Leaders-led forum for dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues of common interest and concern with the aim of promoting peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the region. The Ministers recalled the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in March 2018, and the ASEAN-Australia Informal Breakfast Summit in November 2018, which set out a shared vision for the future of the ASEAN-Australia partnership, including a shared commitment to enhance cooperation to build on the Sydney Declaration and to further strengthen the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership. The Ministers welcomed work towards an ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook.
- The Singapore Ministers invited their Australian counterparts to Singapore for the twelfth SAJMC in 2020.