Sunday, 16 July 2017

PM Lee Hsien Loong dialogue at FutureChina Global Forum 2017

PM Lee underlines Singapore's policy towards superpowers
Being good friends with both China and US is the right position to take, he says
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 15 Jul 2017

Singapore is good friends with China and America, and this is the right position to take, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"Those in the foreign policy establishments will appreciate where we stand even though they may wish us to tilt towards one end or the other," he told 700 business leaders, academics and policymakers last night.

Mr Lee laid out the principles behind Singapore's foreign policy on both superpowers, in a 30-minute dialogue at the FutureChina Global Forum.

Newly returned from the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Germany last weekend, he also gave his reading of global trade winds and the business opportunities Singapore can seize amid China's growth.

He recounted his meeting and "good discussion" with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit, during which they talked about bilateral issues and areas for cooperation, such as the large projects between both governments and in human resources.

China may be world-class in many areas, but Singapore can still find niches in which to work with China, Mr Lee said at the forum organised by Business China, which aims to connect Singaporean and Chinese businesses and marks its 10th anniversary this year.

"I do not accept the principle that anything I can do, they can do better. The world is not like that, he said. "If you are strong at something, you are relatively less strong at other things, and there are other centres of prosperity, ingenuity and energy in the world. It will be like that with China also."

For instance, Singapore as a financial services hub is a natural base for infrastructure financing needed under China's massive Belt and Road initiative, he said when asked to give advice to local businesses keen to get a piece of the action.

The proposed Belt and Road infrastructure network aims to create land and sea trade routes to link Asia with Europe and Africa.

Moderator and Business China board director Robin Hu noted that some observers saw it as China's attempt at creating a Chinese economy outside of China, making nations beholden to it. Mr Lee replied that the Belt and Road was a constructive way for China to grow its place and influence in the world.

"It is win-win, linking to the countries around the region with infrastructure projects... in a way which enables the region to benefit from China's prosperity but at the same time to maintain the region's links with the rest of the world," he said.

The initiative is also open, he noted. "China will enhance its links with other countries. At the same time, other countries can do business with anybody in the world. It is not a closed group. It is an open, welcoming, intensification of mutually beneficial linkages," he added.

But its success hinges on the free flow of trade and goods, said Mr Lee, stressing a point Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean made a day before at the same forum.

"Singapore depends on trade. It is our lifeblood. If the lines are cut, we die," he said, noting that Singapore's trade is more than 31/2 times its gross domestic product.

Singapore therefore has a vested interest in making sure the seas remain open, particularly narrow straits like the Strait of Malacca and Strait of Singapore.

"If any country tries to restrict or go through with (restrictions) unilaterally or selectively... we would be completely opposed to that," said Mr Lee.

Asked if there was a danger of this happening, he said: "I don't think we are at risk of it happening, but I think some countries do worry that it could happen to them."

As for global trade, Mr Lee said: "We hope the US will... be prepared to see that trade is not win-lose, it is win-win. And you don't have to only do business one on one. You can do business with a group, or a regional union."

Both the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact without the United States, as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between ASEAN and six of its close partner countries, are still on the table, he said.

"I hope both will make progress. In the interests of Singapore, the region and the world," he added.


Singapore depends on trade. It is our lifeblood. If the lines are cut, we die. Because our international trade is 31/2 times our GDP, the highest ratio in the world... we have a vested interest in keeping trade routes open and in having freedom of navigation on the seas. And in having an international rule of law which applies to freedom of navigation and making sure that the seas remain open. ''

- PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, on why it is important to ensure the Strait of Malacca and Strait of Singapore stay open for the safe and free flow of goods.


As (countries) grow more prosperous, capable, more open to the world, what we used to do and they used to find us useful for will change... As others progress, we continue to make progress with and in some aspects ahead of them. And then we remain useful to them. ''

- PM LEE, on Singapore's foreign policy principle and how bilateral ties evolve to adapt to the needs of both countries over time.


For a country to be successful, you have to maintain good relations with other countries, but also on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation. Businessmen have to take a different approach because you are not in the position of deciding what is best for your country - you are just looking for opportunities for your company. The more favourable conditions are, the more opportunities you have. Businesses can understand what the Government is trying to do, so that after the dinner over the maotai, if somebody asks you, you have a good answer. ''

- PM LEE, on how businessmen can uphold Singapore's interests when they face pressure from their foreign counterparts during times of tension.

Singapore pledges to work with China on Belt, Road vision: DPM Teo Chee Hean
Key to success is ensuring safe and free flow of goods overland and across seas: DPM Teo
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2017

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has pledged that Singapore will work with China to realise the full potential of the Belt and Road initiative.

One important way is to ensure the safe and free flow of goods overland and across the seas, including the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Singapore, he said.

For this reason, "Singapore will continue to uphold this right of transit passage for ships and aircraft of all countries, and will not support any attempt to restrict transit passage to ships or aircraft from any country". He also said that working together to provide safe and unimpeded passage to all is a key prerequisite for the modern Maritime Silk Road.

Mr Teo was setting out how Singapore can contribute to boosting connectivity among the hubs of the Belt and Road initiative, of which the Maritime Silk Road is a part. It was one of three areas of cooperation he identified yesterday, when opening the FutureChina Global Forum.

The Belt and Road initiative, the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping, envisions connecting Asia, Europe and Africa through a network of roads, ports, bridges, tunnels, pipelines and other projects involving almost 70 nations and two- thirds of the world's population.

This "grand vision... has the potential to bring long-lasting benefits for regional development and integration, uplifting the economies and people across this whole vast region", said Mr Teo.

Singapore supports it, he added, noting that both countries have strong ties which have adapted with their needs over the years.

Mr Chen Deming, standing committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Mr Lan Tianli, first vice- governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, also lauded the bilateral ties in their keynote addresses.

Mr Chen said the deep relationship was initiated by Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, adding: "Recently, with the joint efforts of the later generations of the leaders of both countries, this relationship has been further strengthened."

Mr Teo noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Xi, who met last week in Hamburg before the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit, had affirmed the substantive relationship between their countries, the frequent high-level exchanges and good progress in cooperation.

Cooperation on the Belt and Road is a key example of close ties, and is a crucial area of work for the Singapore-China Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, he said, referring to the council he co-chairs with Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

He added that there is "much potential for broadening and deepening our relationship and taking it to the next level".

The two other ways Singapore can contribute to the Belt and Road initiative are financing and human capital development.

In financing, opportunities exist to support new projects and the internationalisation of China's currency, he said. For instance, financial institutions with major operations in Singapore can actively finance trade and investments between China and ASEAN.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank can also work with other multilateral financing institutions here, he added.

Singapore and China can also help other nations along the Belt and Road develop human capital, "in line with the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit".

To illustrate, Mr Teo said Singapore and China can share their experience in areas such as project preparation, gleaned from three joint government projects: the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City.

Summing up, he said: "While we have often focused on the physical infrastructure of the Belt and Road, other dimensions and layers are also important to realise the full potential of the initiative."

Vital to keep Malacca, Singapore straits open and safe: DPM Teo
Singapore a strong proponent of right of passage and sticking to this principle is key for Maritime Silk Road, he says
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 14 Jul 2017

A key requirement for the success of the Maritime Silk Road - which envisions linking China by sea with Europe by way of various Asian and African countries - is to keep critical sea lanes open and safe for shipping, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

This involves making sure that transit passage through the straits of Malacca and Singapore is not suspended or impeded, as these waters are crucial to connecting the Pacific and Indian oceans and are used by vessels from all countries.

Also, the straits of Malacca and Singapore hold the status of "straits used for international navigation", which means passage through them is provided for in international law, he added.

Mr Teo made these points in his opening address at the FutureChina Global Forum yesterday, when he gave Singapore's position on the right of transit passage for ships and planes of all countries through the straits of Malacca and Singapore.

The forum, which was organised by Business China and attended by more than 500 business leaders and academics, also discussed topics such as the future economy and China's Belt and Road initiative.

Mr Teo said that Singapore is a strong proponent of the right of transit passage, adding: "This is a key principle of vital interest to us as trade is our lifeblood."

He said that sticking to this principle is key to the success of the Maritime Silk Road as it ensures smooth flow of trade and traffic through the straits of Malacca and Singapore.

"Singapore will continue to uphold this right of transit passage for ships and aircraft of all countries, and will not support any attempt to restrict transit passage to ships or aircraft from any country," Mr Teo said.

The Maritime Silk Road is part of China's Belt and Road initiative, which envisions connecting Asia, Europe and Africa through a network of roads, ports, bridges, tunnels, pipelines and other projects.

Mr Teo pointed out that in 2006, Singapore disagreed with Australia's proposal to place certain restrictions on vessels transiting through the Torres Strait between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

The restrictions require ships of more than 70m in length or loaded with certain cargo to have a licensed coastal pilot to guide the ship through the strait, and were meant to protect the sensitive marine environment in those waters.

Singapore disagreed with this, he said, even though it is a strong advocate of marine environmental protection. China had also disagreed with the Australian proposal, he noted.

Mr Teo added that Singapore naval ships and aircraft also work together in the Gulf of Aden with ships from the navies of China, the United States, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) members, Japan, South Korea and other countries, to ensure sea lanes there remain safe from piracy.

Similarly, "working together to keep the key sea lanes open and safe for shipping from all countries, and for all countries, is a key prerequisite for the modern Maritime Silk Road", he noted.

Yesterday, 10 agreements in areas such as finance and technology were signed between Business China and various Chinese organisations.

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