Singapore country brief
Australia and Singapore have a strong and vibrant relationship. Australia was the second country to recognise Singapore when it became an independent nation in 1965. In 2015, Australia and Singapore established a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), which encompasses all aspects of our relationship including trade, defence, science and innovation, education and the arts, digital economy and green economy.
Our prime ministers meet every year. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met in Canberra in October 2022, where they welcomed the signing of a landmark Green Economy Agreement (GEA) and endorsed ‘Green Economy’ as the sixth pillar of the CSP. Our Prime Ministers also met in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016.
Singaporean and Australian cabinet ministers also meet regularly – either during bilateral visits or at regional and multilateral meetings. Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles visited Singapore in June 2022 for the Shangri-La Dialogue. Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong visited Singapore on 6 July 2022 for meetings with Prime Minister Lee, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.
Under the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee (SAJMC), Australian and Singaporean Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence Ministers meet biennially to discuss bilateral trade, defence and security issues. The twelfth SAJMC was held on 27 August 2021, and included the Foreign, Defence and Trade Ministers from Australia and Singapore. Ministers discussed the breadth of bilateral cooperation under the CSP.
Trade and investment
Trade and business ties between Australia and Singapore are strong. Singapore is Australia’s largest trade and investment partner in ASEAN and our fifth largest trading partner in goods and services ($35.9 billion in 2021). It is also our fifth largest source of foreign direct investment and largest two-way trading partner and investor in Southeast Asia.
The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was signed in 2003. A revised SAFTA Agreement, with new market access and greater certainty for exporters of goods, services and investment, entered into force on 1 December 2017.
Australia and Singapore are also members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which entered into force on 30 December 2018.
Defence and security
Singapore is a close and highly capable defence partner of Australia, as reflected in the CSP. On 10 December 2020, the Treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development between Australia and Singapore entered into force and has enhanced and expanded training opportunities for Singapore Armed Forces personnel in Australia. The Treaty builds on 30 years of Singapore’s unilateral military training in Australia and underpins Singapore’s investment in, and commitment to, delivering the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative. Exercise WALLABY, the Singapore Armed Force’s annual unilateral exercise, was held in North Queensland in September-October 2022.
Australia and Singapore have signed a range of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to enhance defence cooperation, including on personnel exchanges, military intelligence cooperation and defence science and technology. Australia also entered into a treaty with Singapore in August 2017 to support the continuation of the Singapore Air Force training at RAAF Base Pearce. Singapore’s Armed Forces contributed to Operation Flood Assist 2022 and Operation Bushfire Assist 2020.
Australia and Singapore are both members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), which is a joint defence arrangement between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Our police forces cooperate closely and have signed MOUs on police collaboration to combat transnational crime and also to combat transnational drug crime. In March 2020, Australia and Singapore announced the renewal of an MOU on Cyber Security Cooperation.
Innovation and science
Both Singapore and Australia recognise the importance of innovation to create modern and dynamic economies. Singapore is a world leader in building a supportive, flexible environment for emerging businesses and Australia has a world-class research system and outward-looking creative, businesses that are ready to collaborate internationally.
Australia and Singapore have signed an MOU on collaboration in innovation and science. A new Synchrotron Access Agreement between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisations and the National University of Singapore was signed by Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic and Singapore’s Minister for Industry and Trade Gan Kim Yong, in October 2022. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research also signed a Master Research Collaboration Agreement in 2022.
Australia has located one of its five start-up 'landing-pads' in Singapore to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. This initiative supports Australian companies to take advantage of Singapore's status as an emerging tech hub, and gain access to the wider ASEAN market.
People links between Australia and Singapore are strong, encompassing education, tourism and arts and culture. More than 5,000 Singaporean students are studying in Australia in 2022. Since 2014, more than 3,000 Australian students have undertaken study and internships in Singapore under the New Colombo Plan.
Singapore and Australia are complementary tourism markets and enjoy close commercial links. Singapore was Australia's fourth largest inbound tourism market in the first half of 2022.
Australia and Singapore are committed to cultural activities that further develop our people-to-people links. We signed an MOU on cooperation in the field of Arts and Culture in 2015; the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art renewed their 2016 MOU with the Singapore Art Museum in 2021 and in 2022, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra renewed an MOU with Singapore’s Symphony Orchestra. Singapore and Australia signed an MOU on Cooperation in Sport in September 2017 to further our cooperation on sport and sports administration.
The Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) entered into force on 8 December 2020. It sets new global benchmarks for trade rules, and a range of practical cooperation initiatives, to reduce barriers to digital trade and build an environment in which Australian businesses and consumers are able to participate and benefit from digital trade and the digitalisation of the economy. The DEA upgrades the digital trade arrangements between Australia and Singapore under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement – which are already among some of the most ambitious globally.
In April 2022, Australia and Singapore signed the Australia-Singapore FinTech Bridge Agreement which strengthens cooperation on financial technology and facilitates trade, investment and ecosystem development in the sector.
The Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement (GEA) was signed by Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell and Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong on 18 October 2022. The GEA is a first-of-its-kind agreement that supports Australia’s economic, trade, investment, and climate change objectives. Under the GEA, Australia and Singapore will jointly implement 17 practical initiatives.
Highlighted in the GEA Annexes these initiatives seek to deliver tangible outcomes to benefit businesses and consumers. Many of these initiatives have already commenced. The GEA will be updated regularly, and new and additional activities might be added over time.
The GEA will build on our substantial bilateral relationship with Singapore and existing areas of cooperation, including the MOU for Cooperation on Low-Emissions Solutions signed in 2020 that supports practical collaboration on hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, renewable energy trade, and measurement, reporting and verification of emissions.