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May 06, 2016

MFA Press Statement: Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Package, 6 May 2016

        Singapore and Australia have concluded a landmark agreement to deepen economic integration; to expand defence cooperation; to jointly promote innovation and entrepreneurship; and to strengthen people-to-people ties by facilitating tourism, cultural exchanges and educational opportunities. This agreement builds on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) adopted in June 2015 by the Prime Ministers of Singapore and Australia.  (A copy of the Joint Announcement made by both countries is at Annex.)

        Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull re-affirmed the strength of our bilateral relations based on strategic convergence and economic complementarities.  They were pleased that the CSP and the successful negotiations for this agreement set out a long-term vision and roadmap for a major upgrade across all aspects of bilateral relations.

        A key outcome is the decision of both countries to update and modernise the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). Signed in 2003, the SAFTA was one of the earliest bilateral free trade agreements for both countries. Today, Singapore ranks as Australia’s fifth largest trading and investment partner.  As part of the Third Review of the SAFTA, both countries will adopt a package of measures to increase trade and investment flows. These measures will reinforce Singapore’s position as a trading and investment partner for Australia.  It will also enhance Singapore’s position as a hub for Australian businesses and service providers to access expanding opportunities in Asia.  

        The Prime Ministers of Singapore and Australia have also agreed to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.  Both countries have strong domestic policies to support innovation, research and development, and the creative industries. There is great alignment in our policies and synergy to be gained from closer cooperation.  We have agreed to bring together our research and scientific bodies, in particular the National Research Foundation, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and support their collaboration through matching funding provided by both countries (about S$50 million over five years), the details of which will be worked out by the respective agencies.

        We welcome Australia’s decision to establish a “landing pad” in Singapore to facilitate high tech Australian start-ups. Greater cooperation with Australia will reinforce Singapore’s role as an international hub for innovation and the creative industries. It will also increase opportunities for our local companies and enhance complementary value creation.

        A significant outcome is the decision to further expand our long-standing defence cooperation with Australia.  We will build on our existing partnership by elevating Exercise Trident to a signature joint bilateral military exercise. Both countries have also agreed to jointly develop more military training areas and facilities in Australia. This will provide Singapore with greater access to military training areas in Australia over a period of 25 years.

        Singapore and Australia will enhance military personnel exchanges and initiate civilian personnel exchanges. We will also enhance intelligence and information sharing, such as in counter-terrorism, and launch a Track 1.5 Dialogue in late-2016 to discuss regional and security issues. These initiatives will further strengthen institutional links and enhance greater understanding between our two countries.

        The strong people-to-people links between our two countries will be given a further boost, as Singaporeans will soon enjoy improved terms of entry into Australia through the implementation of multi-year visa arrangements. In addition, we have agreed to strengthen youth exchanges with the adoption of a 12-month arrangement that will allow Singaporean and Australian youth to travel to and do short-term work in each other’s countries. New exchanges between teachers of Australian and Singaporean schools will also come into effect.

        Singapore and Australia have agreed to strengthen cultural cooperation by building on the Memorandum of Understanding on Arts and Culture that both countries signed in June 2015. We have established an Australia-Singapore Arts Group to increase collaboration between our artists, arts groups and cultural institutions. This will increase opportunities for arts and performing groups in Singapore to showcase their works in Australia and work with their Australian counterparts.  MFA and MCCY will jointly establish a fund of up to S$5 million over a period of five years to support Singapore artists, arts groups and performers to profile their works in Australia.

        This landmark agreement adopted by Singapore and Australia is a major upgrade of the existing strong ties between the governments and people of both countries.  Businesses will have greater opportunities as we integrate our complementary economies in anticipation of the fourth industrial revolution. It will transform our long-standing friendship into a dynamic, innovative and truly strategic partnership.

        Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said:

        “I am delighted that we have concluded this landmark agreement with Australia. It is a win-win deal that will cement relations and benefit Australians and Singaporeans for years to come. The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) is an ambitious package covering many aspects of our relationship. We will move quickly to implement the various measures, although some will take time to bear fruit. 
        Our two countries are politically like-minded, strategically-aligned and economically complementary. We have much to gain by working closely together. The CSP will draw our two countries closer, economically, politically and at the people-to-people level.

        Our economies will become more integrated and intertwined. Defence cooperation will be stepped up. The Singapore Armed Forces will be able to do more military training in Australia.

        We have also agreed to work together in new promising areas, like innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, youth exchanges and the arts and culture. I am happy that Australia will establish one of its five “Landing Pads” in Singapore. This creates new possibilities for our creative talent to work together, and harness our energy and capital for mutual benefit.”

. . . . .

6 MAY 2016




The foundations of the Australia-Singapore partnership are our shared strategic perspective and complementary economies. We share interests in the political stability and economic prosperity of our region, and have worked together as like-minded partners to foster these interests.

Over the past half century, Australia and Singapore have grown ever closer, recognising our common future as Asia-Pacific nations. Ties between our peoples have deepened and our economies have become more integrated, benefitting both countries and contributing to regional growth. Our longstanding defence and security cooperation has also reinforced our shared perspective on the importance of stability and prosperity in the region.

Australia and Singapore share an ambitious vision for further cooperation and seamless economic integration between our countries in the years ahead. On 29 June 2015, our two countries signed a Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic relations. We agreed that the CSP will open a new, dynamic chapter in our partnership by deepening existing areas of cooperation and catalysing new ones.

The two governments have since embarked on a ten year plan to enhance our strategic, trade, economic, defence and people to people links, to deepen collaboration in all areas of bilateral relations and enhance the integration of our economies in order to achieve a Closer Economic Relationship (CER). The two countries will, in particular, accelerate our collaboration in innovation, science, research and technology, capitalising on our respective and complementary strengths.

In pursuit of these goals, our two governments have now agreed to a substantial new package of bilateral cooperation initiatives to give effect to the partnership.

Trade and Economic Outcomes
We have substantially concluded the Third Review of the 2003 Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) to reflect contemporary business needs.  We agreed to a range of measures, in a spirit of reciprocity, to enhance our economic integration beyond the original SAFTA to promote mutually-beneficial outcomes, including:
• updated trade rules in SAFTA in goods, services and investment to reflect  business needs, reduce red tape and increase trade between Australia and Singapore.
• improved mobility and lengths of stay for our business people, including investors/independent executives and contractual service suppliers and their families, and installers and servicers of machinery and equipment.
• improved access for businesses to bid for government procurement contracts in  each other’s markets.
• greater transparency to support business people seeking to move between our markets.
• to commence negotiations on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, with priority for engineers and accountants.
• greater certainty for Australian lawyers and law firms operating in Singapore and Singapore law firms collaborating with such Australian law firms.
• to facilitate opportunities for Singapore investors into Australia by setting higher thresholds for acquisitions under Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB)  in accordance with Australia’s commitments under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.
• updated Rules of Origin, with a  full schedule of Product Specific Rules, to reflect modern customs procedures and provide greater flexibility for businesses using SAFTA.
• to incorporate into SAFTA, the TPP Technical Barriers to Trade Chapter Annexes on wine and distilled spirits, cosmetics, medical devices and pharmaceuticals to reduce red tape and promote greater regulatory coherence.

Innovation and Science
• A Memorandum of Understanding will commit governments to enhance collaboration, exchanges and agency-to-agency innovation and science engagement between Australia and Singapore, such as between CSIRO and A*STAR.  Singapore will provide dedicated funding of about S$25 million over five years.  Australia will provide matching funding from a variety of government and non-government sources.
• As part of the commitment to build stronger innovation linkages and provide significant potential for mutual learning and economic growth, Australia will locate one of its five “landing pads” for market-ready start-ups in Singapore.  This will assist start-ups to “think global” by linking them into entrepreneur and capital networks and industry value chains, accelerating their business development and growth.

• Singapore will recognise the Juris Doctor degree of the Australian universities with undergraduate law degrees currently recognised under SAFTA, and Australia will recognise the undergraduate and Juris Doctor law degrees of Singapore universities,  subject to applicable SAFTA conditions.
• Singapore and Australia will promote further cooperation on education, including on Australian and Singaporean universities with overseas campuses, and considering feedback on regulatory processes. In addition, based on its prevailing policy, Singapore will permit JCU to refer to its campus in Singapore as the Singapore Campus of James Cook University by July 2016.
• Singapore will recognise postgraduate medical degrees from the University of Queensland and the Australian National University and fifteen additional allied health qualifications in Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Speech Therapy.

• Australia and Singapore will jointly develop military training areas and facilities in Australia, enhancing Singapore’s training. Singapore will have enhanced and expanded military training access in Australia over a period of 25 years.
• Australia and Singapore to continue to exploit the benefits derived from the development of Exercise TRIDENT as the signature bilateral joint military exercise.
• Australia and Singapore will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance military personnel exchanges and begin civilian personnel exchanges.
• Australia and Singapore will enhance intelligence and information-sharing in areas of mutual interest, such as counter-terrorism.
• Australia and Singapore to hold a pilot 1.5 Track Dialogue in Australia in late 2016. The Dialogue will bring together Government officials and academia to discuss regional security issues.
• Australia and Singapore to work together on defence science and technology, in areas including combat systems/command, control, communications, computers and intelligence integration; and cognitive/human systems integration.
• These major areas of cooperation and collaboration demonstrate the extent of our strategic defence partnership.

Law Enforcement Cooperation on Transnational Drug Crime
• A Memorandum of Understanding will improve operational collaboration and information exchange, share best practices and strengthen law enforcement cooperation in deterring, preventing and disrupting transnational drug crime.

Pilot Internship Program for Singaporean Students
• A pilot internship program will aim to give 100 Singaporeans studying in Australia more internship opportunities with leading Australian companies.

Building Relations through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement (BRIDGE)
• This program will promote cultural exchange between Australian and Singaporean schools using on-line learning and teacher exchanges. Up to eight Singaporean schools will be selected to participate and will be partnered with up to eight Australian schools.

Singapore-Northern Australia Agribusiness Development Partnership
• This partnership will encourage Singaporean and Australian companies to work together towards the shared objectives of securing reliable supply chains for food and agribusiness products through investment-led development of northern Australia.

Enhancing the Cultural Relationship
• The creation of the Australia Singapore Arts Group will drive an ongoing program of cultural activities supported by the governments of Singapore and Australia. It aims to broaden bilateral cultural cooperation, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Arts and Culture in June 2015. The Group will be co-chaired by Australian and Singaporean arts and culture leaders Dr Matt Trinca, Director, National Museum of Australia, and Mrs Rosa Daniel, Deputy Secretary (Culture) Ministry Of Culture, Community and Youth and Chief Executive Officer, National Heritage Board.

Work and Holiday Maker Programme
• This reciprocal programme, commencing with up to 500 on each side, will promote cultural exchange by allowing young people from Australia and Singapore to experience each other’s country and undertake short term work to supplement their holiday and cultural experience.

• An overarching Memorandum of Understanding between DFAT and the Singapore Tourism Board will establish strategic directions for further collaboration, including sharing research, data and market insights.

Travel Facilitation
• Australia and Singapore have agreed in-principle on a tailored multi-year visa arrangement to facilitate travel and entry of Singapore nationals who are pre-vetted by the Singapore government.

Next Steps
To formalise the outcomes of the negotiations over the priority objectives of the CSP, officials will continue technical work to prepare complete text for legal review and consideration and approval by both countries consistent with their respective domestic processes. 

6 May 2016