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Singapore country brief

Bilateral relations

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 elevated their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), which encompasses all aspects of our relationship including trade, defence, science and innovation, education and the arts and the digital economy.

Our prime ministers meet every year. Then Prime Minister Morrison and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met in Singapore in June 2021, where they announced a $30 million partnership to accelerate the deployment of low emissions fuels and technologies in maritime and port operations. Our Prime Ministers held a virtual meeting in March 2020 and met in person in Singapore in June 2019. Our Prime Ministers also met in 2018, 2017 and 2016.

Singaporean and Australian cabinet ministers also meet regularly – either during bilateral visits or at regional and multilateral meetings. Then Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan visited Singapore on 11-12 July 2021 for meetings with Prime Minister Lee, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo and Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu. Then Foreign Minister Marise Payne visited Singapore from 7 to 9 October 2020 and met Prime Minister Lee, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education Sun Xueling.

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, and agreed a commencement date for negotiation of a Green Economy Agreement, which will facilitate trade and investment in environmental goods and services, strengthen environmental governance, and contribute efforts to build global capacity to address climate change. The eleventh SAJMC was held in 2019.

Following the SAJMC, Singapore and Australia announced a dose swap deal of 500,000 COVID19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to immediately boost Australia’s vaccine programme.

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 sixth largest trading partner overall ($27 billion in two-way trade in 2020).

In August 2020, Australian and Singaporean Trade Ministers signed the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), which entered into force on 8 December 2020. 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 (SAFTA - signed 2003), which are already among some of the most ambitious globally.

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.

Defence and security

Singapore is a close and highly capable defence partner of Australia in Southeast Asia, as reflected in the CSP. On 10 December 2020, the Treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development entered into force and will enhance and expand training opportunities for Singapore Armed Forces personnel in Australia.

Australia and Singapore have signed a range of MOUs to enhance defence cooperation, including on personnel exchanges, military intelligence cooperation and defence science and technology. In August 2017, we signed a treaty to enable the Republic of Singapore Air Force training at RAAF Base Pearce.

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 as well as an MOU for Cooperation on Low-Emissions Solutions that will support practical collaboration on hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), renewable energy trade, and measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions.

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-to-people links

People-to-people links between Australia and Singapore are strong, encompassing education, tourism and arts and culture. The Singaporean community in Australia stood at 72,860 people as of the 2016 Census. More than 130,000 Singaporeans have graduated from Australian universities. Since 2014, 3,360 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 is Australia's sixth largest inbound tourism market and seventh largest by expenditure (315,000 international arrivals from Singapore, and $1 billion expenditure as at 30 June 2020). We hold regular tourism talks and have signed an MOU to establish a framework for collaboration on research, data-sharing, and market insights.

Australia and Singapore are committed to cultural activities that further develop our people-to-people links. The Australia-Singapore Arts Group – a team of arts and culture leaders from both nations – provides a focus for activity, advice and recommendations to support and strengthen arts and cultural engagement between our countries. We signed an MOU on cooperation in the field of Arts and Culture in 2015. Singapore and Australia signed an MOU on Cooperation in Sport in September 2017 to further our cooperation on sport and sports administration.

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