Straits Times: PM Lee to address US business chiefs, meet President Trump today

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will address American business leaders on economic developments and opportunities in Asia today, before calling on President Donald Trump at the White House for their second meeting in four months.

A key focus of PM Lee's meetings on his official working visit to Washington this week will be on how the United States can remain engaged economically in Asia and benefit from the region's growth.

Trade and investment with Singapore supports more than 250,000 US jobs, and the US has maintained a trade surplus with Singapore since 2001, which totalled US$18.3 billion (S$24.9 billion) last year .

Following PM Lee's brief speech at the Economic Club of Washington today, club president David Rubenstein, who is chief executive of investment firm The Carlyle Group, will host a conversation-style interview with him.

Regional security concerns are also set to be aired when PM Lee and President Trump meet to discuss building on the wide-ranging Singapore-US partnership.

Last week, Mr Lee said in an interview with US news channel CNBC that ties were deep and multi-faceted, and Mr Trump had in July described them as very close when both leaders met at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg.

President Trump is scheduled to welcome PM Lee at the West Wing shortly after noon (Tuesday morning Singapore time) for their meeting. He will also host Mr Lee and key members of the Singapore delegation to a working lunch, accompanied by White House officials and Cabinet secretaries. Both leaders will then speak to the press. Observers expect the top two security issues on the agenda to be North Korea's nuclear provocations and countering extremism at a time when terror group ISIS' defeat in its stronghold Raqqa is expected to see foreign fighters and supporters plan attacks globally.

Close defence ties are a cornerstone of Singapore-US ties, with Singapore Armed Forces detachments in the US and American aircraft and navy ships transiting through Singapore. Singapore is also the only Asian country to have contributed assets and personnel to the coalition to defeat ISIS.

PM Lee arrived in Washington on Saturday and posted a photo of the Singapore flag flying over historic Blair House, where he is staying as a guest of the US government. This is the third time he is staying at the President's guest house.

"Singapore and the US have a long history of cooperation. Our people do too, with many working, living, and thriving in each other's countries! We are close, so it is important to keep growing our relationship," he wrote on Facebook.

"While here, we will be calling on senators and congressmen, and meeting the officials who work behind the scenes to keep the relationship warm."

He also met Singaporeans living in Washington at the Singapore Embassy yesterday evening.