May 20, 2016
On May 6th, Singapore and Australia secured an agreement that will boost their ties and allow both sides to cooperate more closely with security, trade, and the arts and culture. The pact covers a range of initiatives that will strengthen their economic, defense and people-to-people ties. The agreement is a “massive upgrading” of the bilateral relationship, according to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong called it a “landmark agreement.”
Singapore is Australia’s fifth largest trading partner and foreign investor and Australia is Singapore's 12th. The two sides announced new measures designed to further deepen relations starting with a review of the original Free Trade Agreement signed by both countries in 2003. This review will address the various challenges that businesses face when expanding into Singapore, and strengthen the Republic’s reputation, as it becomes a hub for Australian businesses that want to tap into opportunities within Southeast Asia. An Australian “landing pad” in Singapore will be established to promote high-tech Australian start-ups. Both sides will be updating trade rules for goods, services, and investment in the free trade agreement In order to facilitate the evolving business needs between the two countries. The changes are designed to reduce red tape and increase trade flows between Singapore and Australia. Some other new initiatives include matching funds to boost science and technology collaboration by both countries.
Amongst the new agreements is additional defense cooperation between both sides. Singapore and Australia will be boosting intelligence and information sharing while Singapore troops will be given access to more military areas to train Down Under for 25 years. "Our economies will become more integrated and intertwined. Defense cooperation will be stepped up,” said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Improvements of people-to-people ties include longer visa stays for Singaporeans going into Australia who will no longer have to apply for visas that are valid for only 12 months - they will be granted multi-year visas. There will be strengthened youth exchanges between the two countries and additional cooperation and funding for artists, performers, and cultural institutions. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), “The landmark agreement will transform our long-standing friendship into a dynamic, innovative and truly strategic partnership.”
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