1 Thank you, Mr Chairman. COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to our external environment. While the situation in Singapore has improved greatly since last year, normalcy remains some way off.
2 Meanwhile, MFA will have to maintain and strengthen relations with our neighbours and partners to achieve peace and prosperity for ourselves and our region. As Minister Balakrishnan said earlier, as a responsible member of the international community, we worked with our partners to bring Singaporeans home and help foreign nationals do likewise, despite the global impact on travel restrictions. We kept supply chains open and served as an airbridge to facilitate critical and compassionate travel, and the operations of UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.
3 As a reliable host, we saw to the welfare of vulnerable foreigners working in Singapore. We ensured medical care, meals, and phonecards for migrant workers and mandated that their salaries be paid on time.
4 Our relations with our immediate neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, remain strong. While issues have cropped up from time to time, we have addressed them constructively. We should not take this cooperation for granted.
5 Relations with our nearest neighbour, Malaysia, can be best characterised by the Malay saying “bagai aur dengan tebing” (like bamboo and the water’s edge). Malaysia and Singapore are deeply intertwined, with strong people-to-people and economic linkages. Although COVID-19 and ensuing border restrictions have caused significant disruptions, both countries have cooperated to alleviate these challenges. In the early days of COVID-19, we appreciated PM Muhyiddin’s assurance that supplies from Malaysia would not be disrupted even with their lockdown.
6 As Minister Balakrishnan earlier said, Singapore and Malaysia have helped each other during this difficult time. For example, in April 2020, we brought 60 Malaysians out from Bangladesh on a Singapore Airlines flight. Malaysia also helped Singaporeans return home, including 22 Singaporeans who left Nepal the same month on a Malaysian government flight. We have also worked very closely with Malaysian authorities to facilitate Singaporeans’ travel into Malaysia for essential and compassionate reasons. Since March 2020, we have also facilitated the appeals of more than 250 Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents to travel to Malaysia. When Malaysia implemented its Movement Control Order in March 2020, many Malaysians who used to commute to work in Singapore daily could not do so at the time. We worked with employers on short-term housing for these workers. In August 2020, we launched the Periodic Commuting Arrangement to facilitate cross-border travel for work.
7 Let me now turn to our relationship with Indonesia, which remains strong despite the pandemic. Singapore remained Indonesia’s largest foreign investor in 2020, a position we have held since 2014. In fact, Singapore’s investments in Indonesia increased by 50% in 2020 over 2019. We have kept up momentum on our bilateral projects. I will now elaborate on these relationships in Malay, Mr Chairman.
8 Encik Zhulkarnain telah bertanya tentang cara kami memelihara hubungan rapat kami dengan jiran terdekat Malaysia, ketika pandemik COVID-19 ini, memandangkan adanya gangguan terhadap aliran rentas-sempadan kita.
[English translation: Mr Zhulkarnain has asked how we have maintained our close linkages with our nearest neighbour Malaysia, during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly given the disruptions to cross-border flows.]
9 Singapura dan Malaysia masing-masing merupakan rakan perdagangan kedua-terbesar dan pelabur penting. Pandemik COVID-19 menonjolkan sikap saling bergantung antara kedua negara.
[English translation: Singapore and Malaysia are each other’s second-largest trading partners and significant investors. Our interdependence was brought into sharp focus by the COVID-19 pandemic.]
10 Pada 18 Mac 2020, Malaysia telah mengenakan Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan (PKP) pertamanya. Kami memberi reaksi yang pantas terhadap perkembangan itu. Dengan segera, kita menubuhkan Jawatankuasa Bekerja Khas Singapura-Malaysia bagi COVID-19 untuk memastikan kedua-dua pihak dapat bekerjasama dan mencapai kesudahan yang saling-menguntungkan serta memudahkan pergerakan yang selamat untuk warga, barang-barang, dan perkhidmatan penting. Kami telah bekerja rapat dengan kerajaan Perikatan Nasional untuk menangani kesan daripada pandemik COVID-19 terutama sekali bagi pergerakan rentas-sempadan yang penting. Ini telah membenarkan kami memastikan bahawa rantaian bekalan kami bersama Malaysia kekal berterusan, terutama sekali bagi produk makanan yang mudah rosak, biarpun adanya sekatan sempadan.
[English translation: On 18 March 2020, Malaysia imposed its first Movement Control Order (MCO). We reacted quickly to the developments. We immediately formed the Singapore-Malaysia Special Working Committee on COVID-19 to ensure both sides could work together and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome as well as facilitate the safe movement of essential people, goods, and services. We have worked closely with the Perikatan Nasional government to tackle the effects of COVID-19, especially on essential cross-border movements. This allowed us to ensure that our supply chains with Malaysia continued uninterrupted, particularly for perishable food products, despite the border restrictions.]
11 Seperti kami, Malaysia telah bekerja keras untuk mengawal keadaan COVID-19 mereka. Pelbagai kategori PKP telah dilaksanakan di beberapa negeri di Malaysia. Malaysia juga telah mengisytiharkan Keadaan Darurat diatas seluruh negara pada January 2021. Kami harapkan yang terbaik untuk mereka dan bersedia menghulurkan apa jua bantuan sekiranya perlu. Sepanjang pandemik ini, pemimpin-pemimpin dan perkhidmatan awam kita telah mengekalkan talian hubungan yang baik dan terbuka. Pandemik COVID-19 telah mengubah cara kita berinteraksi dengan pemimpin-pemimpin Malaysia. Walaubagaimanapun kami telah dapat menggunakan cara-cara lain untuk meneruskan interaksi di peringkat-tinggi ini. Ini telah membenarkan kita bekerjasama secara konstruktif dalam menghadapi cabaran yang bangkit daripada pandemik ini.
[English translation: Just like us, Malaysia has been working hard to bring its COVID-19 situation under control. Various categories of MCOs have been implemented in the different states in Malaysia. Malaysia also declared a State of Emergency in January 2021. We wish them well and stand ready to provide any assistance that might be needed. Throughout the pandemic, our leaders and civil services have maintained good, open lines of communication. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the mode of our interactions with Malaysian leaders. Nevertheless, we have adopted other ways to continue these high-level interactions. This has allowed us to cooperate constructively in facing the challenges posed by the pandemic.]
12 Saya juga ingin merakamkan penghargaan Singapura keatas kejayaan Malaysia sebagai Pengerusi APEC meskipun adanya pandemik COVID-19, termasuk kejayaan Malaysia menjadi tuan rumah bagi Persidangan Pemimpin-Pemimpin Ekonomi APEC secara maya pada November 2020. Interaksi sebegini dapat terus memajukan integrasi ekonomi serantau dalam kita menangani pandemik ini bersama.
[English translation: I would also like to record Singapore’s appreciation for Malaysia’s successful APEC Chairmanship despite COVID-19, capped off by Malaysia’s successful hosting of the virtual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November 2020. Such interactions continue to advance regional economic integration even as we tackle the pandemic.]
13 Sekarang izinkan saya beralih tumpuan kepada hubungan Singapura dengan Indonesia. Hubungan kami dengan Indonesia mendalam dan berbagai, dengan kerjasama yang saling-menguntungkan dan menjangkau sektor-sektor perdagangan, pelaburan, pelancongan, keselamatan dan pendidikan.
[English translation: Now allow me to turn to Singapore’s relationship with Indonesia. Our relationship with Indonesia is deep and multifaceted, with mutually beneficial collaboration spanning trade, investment, tourism, security, and education sectors.]
14 Singapura mengekalkan hubungan rapat dengan pemimpin-pemimpin Indonesia. Kami juga bekerja baik dengan Presiden Joko Widodo dan pentadbirannya dan kami teruja menanti pelestarian momentum yang positif ini. Kami juga telah mengekalkan penglibatan serantau yang rapat dengan pemimpin-pemimpin di provinsi-provinsi Indonesia. Sebelum mulanya penularan pandemik ini, saya telah melakukan lawatan kerja ke beberapa bandar di provinsi-provinsi Indonesia termasuk Bandar Jambi, Pekanbaru dan Batam. Ini merupakan sebahagian daripada usaha menyeluruh kami untuk mempereratkan kerjasama dengan wilayah-wilayah Indonesia dan untuk mengenalpasti peluang-peluang untuk kerjasama yang baru. Banyak diantara peluang-peluang ini terletak di Provinsi Kepulauan Riau (KEPRI) terutamanya di Batam, dimana pelaburan Singapura berjumlah US$132 juta dalam tiga suku pertama 2020. Singapura juga merupakan negara pelabur terbesar projek-projek di Batam, dengan jumlah pelaburan dalam sebanyak 625 projek. Singapura teruja meneruskan pertalian yang erat dengan pemimpin-pemimpin wilayah dan kami harap dapat memulakan kembali pertukaran menerusi lawatan fizikal apabila keadaan lebih mengizinkan.
[English translation: Singapore maintains close ties with Indonesian leaders. We also work well with President Joko Widodo and his Administration and look forward to sustaining this positive momentum. We have also maintained close regional engagement with Indonesia’s provincial leaders. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, I made a working visit to several cities in the Indonesian provinces, including Jambi City, Pekanbaru, and Batam. This was part of our overall effort to strengthen cooperation with Indonesia’s regions and suss out new opportunities for collaboration. Many of these opportunities are currently situated in the Province of Riau Islands (KEPRI), specifically Batam, where Singapore’s investment totalled US$132 million in the first three quarters of 2020. Singapore was also the country that invested in the largest number of projects in Batam, with investments in a total of 625 projects. Singapore looks forward to continuing our strong links with the regional leaders and hopes to restart exchanges through physical visits when the situation allows.]
15 Cik Joan Pereira telah menyebut tentang hubungan substantif antara Indonesia dan Singapura dalam pelbagai bidang dan bertanyakan tentang usaha kami untuk mempereratkan lagi hubungan ini ketika pandemik COVID-19.
[English translation: Ms Joan Pereira has pointed out the substantive cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore in many different areas and enquired about our efforts to further strengthen this relationship during this COVID-19 pandemic.]
16 Kami telah meneruskan pertukaran di peringkat-tinggi bersama Indonesia. Ramai di antara Menteri-Menteri Kabinet dan pegawai-pegawai kanan kami yang telah meneruskan penglibatan dan hubungan bersama rakan-rakan sejawatan mereka menerusi panggilan telefon dan panggilan video.
[English translation: We have kept up our high-level exchanges with Indonesia. Many of our Cabinet Ministers and officials kept up regular engagements and communication with their counterparts through phone and video calls.]
17 Kami terus mengekalkan momentum yang kukuh untuk projek-projek ekonomi dua hala. Kami bersidang secara maya bagi Enam Kumpulan Kerja Ekonomi Dua Hala Peringkat Menteri (6WG), yang bertujuan membenarkan kami memajukan projek-projek saling menguntungkan, seperti Taman Perindustrian Kendal dan meneroka kaedah yang meningkatkan jumlah perdagangan hasil pertanian.
[English translation: We have continued to maintain strong momentum on our bilateral economic projects. We convened the Six Bilateral Economic Working Groups (6WG) Ministerial Meeting virtually, allowing us to advance mutually beneficial projects such as the Kendal Industrial Park and exploring ways that increase the volume of trade in agricultural products.]
18 Di peringkat strategik pula, kami telah meneruskan perbincangan tentang pengurusan Maklumat Penerbangan Rantau (FIR) dan latihan ketenteraan dengan Indonesia secara terasing tetapi serentak dibawah Rangkakerja bagi Perbincangan yang diumumkan pada Rahat Pemimpin 2019. Kami telah mengekalkan hubungan yang kukuh dalam pertahanan dan keselamatan dan bersiap sedia untuk bekerjasama didalam bidang-bidang seperti anti-pengganasan. Kami juga sedang bekerja rapat menangani cabaran-cabaran serupa seperti dalam sektor persekitaran. Selanjutnya, kita melancarkan Laluan Hijau Timbal Balik atau RGL atas Singapura-Indonesia pada Oktober 2020. Ikutan pelancaran ini, RGL tersebut telah berjaya, memudahkan perjalanan untuk kerja-kerja rasmi dan perniagaan. Meskipun RGL sedang digantung ketika ini, kami akan terus bekerjasama dengan Indonesia untuk menyambung semula RGL apabila kedua-dua pihak bersedia untuk melakukannya.
[English translation: At the strategic level, we have continued discussions on the management of our Flight Information Region and military training with Indonesia separately but concurrently under the framework for discussions announced at the Leaders’ Retreat in 2019. Our defence and security establishments have maintained strong ties and stand ready to work together in areas such as counterterrorism. We are also working closely to tackle common challenges such as in the environment sector. In addition, we launched the Singapore-Indonesia Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) in October 2020. Following its launch, the RGL successfully facilitated official and business travel. While currently suspended, we will continue working with Indonesia to resume the RGL when both sides are ready to do so.]
19 Sebagai jiran yang prihatin, kami telah menyumbang secara kecil-kecilan tersendiri kami kepada perjuangan Indonesia keatas COVID-19. Pada awal pandemik, kami telah menyumbang bekalan perubatan termasuk alat-alat PCR dan kit ujian serta PPEs. Pada November tahun lalu, kami mengaturkan pengiriman 10 juta pelitup dan dua juta botol cecair pembasmi kuman ke provinsi-provinsi dan pertubuhan-pertubuhan Indonesia.
[English translation: As a concerned neighbour, we have contributed in our own small ways to Indonesia’s fight against COVID-19. In the early days of the pandemic, we conveyed medical supplies, including PCR machines and test kits, and PPEs. In November last year, we arranged for the delivery of 10 million surgical masks and two million bottles of hand sanitisers to Indonesian provinces and organisations.]
20 Encik Zhulkarnain juga telah bertanya tentang pengemaskinian hubungan kami dengan Brunei. Kami menikmati hubungan istimewa yang kekal lama yang terbina diatas kepercayaan strategik yang sekian lama antara Brunei dan Singapura. Kepercayaan ini dibuktikan oleh, antara lain, kerjasama pertahanan kami yang kukuh dan Perjanjian Pertukaran Mata Wang Singapura-Brunei. Singapura merupakan salah satu destinasi eksport dan sumber utama import bagi Brunei. Singapura dan Brunei juga telah baru-baru ini menandatangani Memorandum-Memorandum Persefahaman untuk kerjasama dalam pembangunan sosial pada September 2020, dan untuk kerjasama agri-makanan dan agro-teknologi pada Februari 2021.
[English translation: Mr Zhulkarnain has also asked for an update on our relationship with Brunei. We enjoy a longstanding special relationship built on a strategic trust long forged between Brunei and Singapore. This trust is evidenced by, among others, our strong defence cooperation and the Currency Interchangeability Agreement. Singapore is one of Brunei’s main export destinations and main sources of imports. Singapore and Brunei also recently signed Memorandums of Understanding to cooperate on social development in September 2020, and on agri-food and agro-technology cooperation in February 2021.]
21 Pada bulan November tahun lalu, Timbalan Perdana Menteri Heng Swee Keat dan saya telah mengunjungi Brunei untuk mengutuskan kawat takziah Pemerintah Singapura kepada Sultan Brunei atas kemangkatan puteranya Pengiran Muda Haji ‘Abdul ‘Azim. Ini merupakan lawatan pertama ke luar negara oleh pemegang jawatan politik Singapura sejak sekatan perjalanan COVID-19 dikenakan.
[English translation: DPM Heng Swee Keat and I visited Brunei in November last year to offer condolences on behalf of the Singapore Government on the passing of His Majesty the Sultan’s son, His Royal Highness Prince Haji ‘Abdul ‘Azim. This was the first overseas visit by Singapore political office holders since COVID-19 travel restrictions were imposed.]
22 Kami telah lama menikmati kerjasama yang erat dengan Brunei dalam pelbagai sektor. Kami telah manfaatkan jalinan erat kami untuk menangani cabaran COVID-19. Ini termasuk pelancaran RGL antara Singapura dan Brunei pada 1 September 2020. Singapura juga telah secara sepihak membuka sempadan kami kepada pelawat dari Brunei.
[English translation: We have always enjoyed strong cooperation with Brunei in various sectors. We have leveraged our strong ties to address the challenges posed by COVID-19. This includes the launch of the RGL between Singapore and Brunei on 1 September 2020. Singapore has also unilaterally opened our borders to travellers from Brunei.]
23 Singapura dan Brunei akan terus meneroka kerjasama dalam bidang-bidang baru, termasuk makanan-agro, teknologi-agro dan perubahan iklim. Ini merupakan beberapa cara kami memanfaatkan kekuatan hubungan kami dengan Brunei dan membina medan baru bagi kerjasama dalam tahun-tahun mendatang. Tahun ini, kami akan memberi sokongan padu pada Brunei untuk melaksanakan peranannya sebagai Pengerusi ASEAN.
[English translation: Singapore and Brunei will continue to explore cooperation in new areas, including agri-food, agro-technology, and climate change. These are just some of the ways to tap on the strength of our relationship with Brunei and build new avenues of cooperation in the years to come. We will strongly support Brunei in its role as ASEAN Chairman this year.]
24 We have received several questions on ASEAN. Ms Sylvia Lim asked about enhancing relations among ASEAN countries, the reputation of ASEAN in the international community, and ASEAN’s efforts on the situation in the South China Sea (SCS). Mr Murali Pillai has asked how MFA can enhance cooperation with other countries including ASEAN members, about the integration of ASEAN markets, and how such efforts will improve the lives of Singaporeans.
25 ASEAN remains a cornerstone of Singapore’s foreign policy. A stable ASEAN is important for our development. ASEAN Member States have drawn closer through COVID-19 initiatives and regional economic recovery efforts. Brunei’s Chairmanship of ASEAN this year aims to ramp up relations among ASEAN Member States at the NGO and people-to-people levels. For instance, Brunei is leading efforts to establish a platform for the people of ASEAN to contribute to disaster relief efforts. Singapore will work closely with Brunei on these initiatives.
26 Since its establishment, ASEAN has steadily built up a reputation as a regional architecture for external powers to dialogue with member states and one another to help foster regional peace and security. We have had many videoconference meetings with external partners in 2020 at the ministerial and leaders’ levels, which will continue this year.
27 The historic signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in November 2020 is a positive development amidst difficult times. It will boost confidence in regional trade and investment with the elimination of tariffs for about 92% of goods on average traded among members. This will encourage greater trade flows and open new opportunities for our businesses and our people. This is timely as we move ahead to secure our recovery from the economic impact of COVID-19.
28 ASEAN has a role in preserving peace and stability in our region, including the SCS. A key ASEAN-led process to manage the SCS disputes is the Code of Conduct in the SCS (COC) negotiations. We have made good progress and commenced the second reading of the Single Draft Negotiating Text in 2019. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, dialogue between ASEAN and China is ongoing. We will continue to defend our right to freedom of navigation and overflight and work through ASEAN towards an effective and substantive COC that is in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
29 Let me now give an update on ASEAN’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and on community building. While the pandemic has disrupted connectivity among ASEAN Member States, we will encourage ASEAN Member States to cooperate on post-pandemic recovery, regional supply chain connectivity, safely restoring cross-border travel, and enhancing resilience against public health emergencies. Just as PM encouraged countries to cooperate and develop a system to verify COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, I hope ASEAN will cooperate on measures to safely restore regional connectivity when conditions permit.
30 ASEAN has made steady progress combatting the pandemic. It promptly set up the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies. This led to several initiatives including the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund. Singapore contributed US$100,000 to the Fund which will be used to purchase medical equipment and other items to help fellow ASEAN Member States combat the pandemic. Singapore recognises the importance of these mechanisms, which have enhanced our ability to collectively deal with COVID-19.
31 Mr Derrick Goh has asked how Singapore can support this year’s ASEAN Chair, Brunei, to forge a closer ASEAN. Singapore supports Brunei’s Chairmanship agenda and will work with Brunei to advance ASEAN Community building, economic integration, and regional stability, and to develop cooperation in new areas of importance such as digitalisation, cybersecurity, smart cities, and climate change.
32 As ASEAN-European Union (EU) Country Coordinator, we have also strengthened cooperation between ASEAN and the EU following the recent elevation of Dialogue Relations to a Strategic Partnership. An ASEAN-EU FTA would present new opportunities for inter-regional collaboration on issues such as supply chain and digital connectivity. We look forward to the finalisation of the ASEAN-EU FTA.
33 Mr Abdul Samad has asked how we are deepening our engagement with other key partners beyond ASEAN. India is one such partner. India and Singapore must continue to collaborate on new frontiers such as innovation, the digital economy, and FinTech. Singapore was among the largest foreign investors in India for the past several years. Likewise, Indian investments in Singapore have increased from S$21.9 billion in 2009 to S$28.8 billion in 2019 in sectors such as finance, insurance, and information communications technology (ICT).
34 Our companies see great opportunity in India. For example, Novade is a start-up providing smart field management solutions for Capitaland and local developers in India’s construction industry, and this industry contributed over US$188 billion to India’s GDP in FY2019. India is expected to be the world’s third-largest construction market by 2024, and our Singapore companies are in that market. We look forward to collaborating with India in other areas of mutual interest, including digital connectivity and artificial intelligence, as well as facilitating our companies’ effort at harnessing the huge Indian market.
35 As Singapore assumes the Coordinatorship of ASEAN-India Dialogue relations in August 2021, we will seek to promote win-win cooperation between ASEAN and India.
36 Next, to the Middle East. Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked when our citizens will be able to travel to perform the Hajj and Umrah. We understand that our Muslim community longs to perform the Hajj and Umrah. MFA will work closely with MOH and Muis to monitor the COVID-19 situation and assess when it would be safe for such travel to resume, in line with the overall national advisory for overseas travel. We seek the community’s continued understanding and patience.
37 At the G-to-G level, we seek to enhance economic and political collaboration with key partners where opportune. We are in the midst of establishing the Singapore-Saudi Joint Committee on economic cooperation, mooted during President Halimah Yacob’s State Visit to Saudi Arabia in November 2019. We will support our companies as they explore opportunities in the Middle East’s largest economy.
38 We also welcome recent positive developments in the region. As Mr Alex Yam has noted, Israel and a number of Arab countries have normalised relations following the signing of the Abraham Accords in August 2020. In January, Qatar and its neighbours agreed to restore ties. We hope these developments lead to new opportunities for cooperation and growth, and sustainable peace and security in the region. We continue to encourage Israel and the Palestinians to resolve their long-standing conflict. Singapore has taken a consistent and principled position, supporting a negotiated two-state solution consistent with the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
39 Now to Sub-Saharan Africa. The continent is the fastest urbanising region in the world. Its young population has the potential to unlock significant economic growth. The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in January 2021 may well create opportunities for our businesses to tap into a market of over 1.2 billion people, with a combined GDP of US$3.4 trillion.
40 Ms Joan Pereira has asked how Singaporean companies are tapping the continent’s market. There are currently around 60 Singapore companies operating across Sub-Saharan Africa in a wide range of sectors such as agri-business, oil and gas, and FinTech. One such company is Ascent Solutions, which specialises in Internet of Things (“IoT”) and GPS Security Tracking Solutions for the logistics industry. Its iSPOT Electronic Cargo Tracking System is deployed in several countries including Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania. In Kenya, it helped customs agencies reduce the time taken to clear bonded cargo travelling from Mombasa to Malaba from 20 days to under three days. In Ghana, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) has implemented iSPOT to track the delivery of petroleum products to 4,000 petrol retail outlets nationwide. Africa now contributes more than 20% of Ascent’s revenue.
41 Mr Gan Thiam Poh has asked about our efforts to deepen our engagement of emerging markets including through measures such as FTAs. We have continued to pursue opportunities with emerging markets, including Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America, in areas including innovation, digitalisation, and agri-food. For instance, we welcomed the first shipment of eggs from Poland in June 2020 as part of a larger food diversification initiative. Singapore also signed the Digital Economy Agreement with Chile and New Zealand in June 2020, a first-of-its-kind agreement that establishes new approaches and collaborations in digital trade, promotes interoperability, and addresses new issues brought about by digitalisation.
42 We look forward to the successful completion of the Eurasian Economic Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which will facilitate increased economic exchanges with EAEU Member States Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, as well as with the region as a whole. This will create diverse economic opportunities for Singaporean businesses in the combined Eurasian market of more than 180 million people.
43 We are also deepening our engagement with Latin America. We are currently negotiating the Pacific Alliance-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (PASFTA) and the MERCOSUR-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (MSFTA). Last year, we made good progress with the substantial conclusion of the FTA negotiations with the Pacific Alliance, which comprises Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, in December. We are keeping up the momentum so that we can conclude negotiations and sign the PASFTA this year. Once concluded, the PASFTA will establish the PA’s first FTA with Singapore, and our first bilateral FTA with Colombia. Singapore will become the first Associate State of the Pacific Alliance. This will provide Singapore a platform to pursue more economic collaboration with the PA, in areas such as the digital economy, trade facilitation, energy sector, and infrastructure.
44 Likewise, we hope to expeditiously conclude our FTA negotiations with the MERCOSUR, which is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. MERCOSUR represents a market of 266 million people and a combined GDP of US$4.44 trillion.
45 Once concluded, these trade agreements will deepen our economic links with Latin America and strengthen Singapore’s value as a commercial bridge between Latin America and Southeast Asia.
46 Mr Chairman, I conclude by reiterating that despite the constraints imposed by COVID-19, we must continue cooperating with our partners for the security, peace, and prosperity of Singapore, and the region. As our external environment remains in flux, our tenacity and resilience as a people have enabled us to strengthen these relationships and advance forward.
47 In so doing, we strengthen Singapore’s resilience and relevance. And as long as we remain relevant to the world, we secure the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans. I now turn the floor to my colleague, SMS Chee Hong Tat.
. . . . .