Addendum to the President's Address - Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs

14 April 2023

1 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) upholds Singapore’s sovereignty, while advancing the interests of Singapore internationally and providing consular services to Singaporeans. Our mission remains constant, even as the world has become more complex and dangerous. Russia’s invasion of its neighbour Ukraine is a striking reminder that we must never take our independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity for granted.

2 The rules-based multilateral order, which has underpinned global peace and prosperity, is under severe strain. Even as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, we see a perfect storm of multiple overlapping and interrelated crises in the security, economic, public health, climate, technological, and socio-political domains. Superpower rivalry between the United States (US) and China continues to sharpen, with increasing risks of mishaps and geopolitical miscalculations. To navigate this increasingly fractured global order while seizing new opportunities for Singaporeans, Singapore’s foreign policy must continue to be guided by our long-term national interests that are well understood and supported by our people.

Navigating a More Complex and Dangerous World

Beginning with Our Neighbourhood

3 Our relations with our immediate neighbours remain important. We continue to work closely with them to deepen ties and expand cooperation in emerging areas. 

4 With Malaysia, the priority is to enhance our peoples’ lives and livelihoods through projects like the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link. At the same time, we will manage our differences pragmatically and constructively. 

5 Having ratified the agreements under the Expanded Framework between Singapore and Indonesia, we are exploring opportunities to collaborate on future-oriented issues with Indonesia, such as the digital economy, sustainable development, and human resource development, and the green economy including the energy transition. Singapore has also worked closely with Indonesia in the multilateral arena, including supporting its successful G20 Presidency last year, and its ASEAN Chairmanship this year to advance ASEAN integration. 

6 Singapore has a special and unique relationship with Brunei, with whom we are also expanding cooperation in education, the green economy, and supply chain resilience.

Building Overlapping Circles of Friends

7 MFA forges overlapping circles of friends as embodied in the open, inclusive, and ASEAN-centred regional architecture. The innermost circle comprises our immediate neighbours and ASEAN, which remains a cornerstone of our foreign policy. ASEAN-led mechanisms like the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Plus-Three, and the Plus-One summits bring all major powers and regional players, including the US, China, and India, to the same table. We welcome the interest of major powers to engage ASEAN on our own merits, and to take clear stakes in the peace, stability, and development of our region, which will create a stable balance of power in the Asia Pacific. 

8 Beyond our immediate neighbourhood, we work with other partners around the world to advance our shared interests and address common challenges. We continue to champion common causes with the other 107 members of the Forum of Small States. Our Singapore Cooperation Programme, which has seen the participation of close to 150,000 foreign officials, continues to evolve to meet the needs of fellow developing countries. For instance, we launched our new Sustainability Action Package to support developing countries’ priorities in sustainability and climate change.

Upholding Multilateralism and Seizing New Opportunities

9 An inclusive and rules-based multilateral system is key to Singapore’s survival and prosperity as a small island city-state with unique vulnerabilities. We will continue to advocate adherence to, and strengthening of, multilateralism and international law. We will also continue making constructive contributions to emerging rules and norms governing the global commons, including in climate change and sustainability, cyberspace, and outer space. For example, we have just successfully concluded negotiations under Singapore’s Presidency on a new United Nations Agreement on Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. 

10 Amidst the pushback against globalisation and free trade, we must continue to press ahead with global economic integration and seize opportunities in emerging areas. Singapore has been working with like-minded partners such as Australia, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Chile, on pathfinding initiatives, such as the modular and project-based Digital Economy Agreements and Green Economy Agreements. We encourage plurilateral initiatives, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which facilitate trade cooperation and promote a forward-looking economic agenda.

Supporting Singaporeans Overseas

11 With the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions worldwide, we expect greater demand for consular services as more Singaporeans resume travelling, and some may encounter problems or difficulties overseas. MFA will meet this increased demand and deliver consular services to all Singaporeans promptly and effectively, by harnessing technology as well as through a new corps of professional first responders trained to provide 24/7 consular response and assistance to Singaporeans. 

Foreign Policy Begins at Home

12 National unity is essential for Singapore’s survival. Heightened geopolitical tensions have exacerbated the risk of foreign interference in our public discourse and shaping of opinions on global and domestic policies. We will continue to engage fellow Singaporeans on our foreign policy principles, so that they have a clear-eyed understanding of Singapore’s long-term national interests and vulnerabilities. With understanding, trust, and support from our citizens, Singapore will be on a stronger footing to chart our own course and act in our best interests.


13 Despite the fraught external environment, we have invaluable strengths, including our reputation for stability and policy consistency, as well as high levels of public trust and support — which we do not take for granted. We will continue to safeguard and shore up our resilience and unity as Singaporeans, in Singapore or overseas, to navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities ahead.


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