Lee Hsien Loong: Singapore in an Ever-More Connected World
Prime Minister stresses regional ties, China's importance for southeast Asia
SYDNEY, October 12, 2012 — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong emphasized deepening ties between his country and Australia in a wide-ranging address that also encompassed his views on the economy, regional security, and, pointedly, China's unavoidable importance in southeast Asian affairs.
Changes wrought by globalization and the worldwide financial crisis also figured in the Prime Minister's remarks, which he delivered at an Asia Society AustralAsia lunch attended by more than 200 senior businessmen and women and community leaders.
With regard to the economy, Lee noted the higher standard of living in Asia, but cautioned, "It is difficult to look 20 years into the future." While southeast Asia avoided the worst effects of the recent economic meltdown, Singapore was "badly affected" by the storm and has only just picked itself up again. "We are entering a new phase — the economy is mature."
Lee stressed the importance of a growing China in our ever more increasingly connected world. China is at the forefront of global change, he argued, and no global problem can be solved without its participation. China's "only trajectory is upwards," he said.
ASEAN, which is made up of 10 southeast Asia countries, is working hard to strengthen its base and also its relationship with Australia. Australia and Singapore have many similarities and shared interests; most importantly, both countries want an economically strong and peaceful region.
Lee spoke of the inter-connectedness of Australia and Singapore. Asia and Australia have strong ties — seven out of the top 10 trading partners for Australia are in Asia; six out of the 10 top Australian tourist destinations are in Asia; 50,000 Singaporeans live in Australia; 20,000 Australians live in Singapore, 300,000 Singaporeans visit Australia every year and one million Australians visit Singapore every year; finally, both countries have deployed armed forces in East Timor and Afghanistan.
Lee met with Senator Bob Carr yesterday and discussed swelling Singapore-Australian business connections. Singapore, he pointed out, supports Australia's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The Prime Minister concluded that Singapore and Australia should continue to build on existing ties. "There are many opportunities to keep working together."