Australia and Singapore while urging for rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region Friday emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint. Both sides also called on all claimants in the South China Sea to take meaningful steps to ease tensions and build trust, including through dialogue.
The shared interest for a stable Indo-Pacific region was reiterated at the 11th meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee held in Sydney and co-chaired by Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore.
Meeting was attended by Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne, Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham and their Singaporean counterparts Dr Ng Eng Hen and Chan Chun Sing.
A joint statement issued after the meeting stated that 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 recognized principles of international law.
Committee also emphasized the importance of sustained and constructive engagement of the region by the United States and China.
While condemning devastated terrorist attack in Christchurch, 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.
Trade, Investment and Economics
The Ministers reiterated their vision for a Closer Economic Relationship and 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 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 also affirmed their determination to conclude a modern, high quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement by end-2019.
The Singapore-Australia FTA came into force in 2017. Since then, bilateral trade has grown 25.8% year-on-year to S$24.5 billion in 2018. Both sides also discussed new areas of cooperation such as cyber security, digital economy, and agri-food cooperation.
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security
The Ministers recognised the enduring contribution of the close and longstanding Singapore-Australia defence relationship to regional stability.
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.
Science and Innovation
The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of international science and technology collaboration to economic prosperity as the second Dialogue between two countries to be held in 2019.
The Committee 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 next meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee would be held in Singapore in 2020.