Remarks by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Joint Press Conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 1 December 2016
His Excellency Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you Prime Minister Abe for your remarks and for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation during this visit. I am deeply honoured to make a State Visit to Japan in this momentous year of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan, or SJ50 in short. Prime Minister Abe and I had a productive and fruitful meeting, during which we reaffirmed the long-standing and close relationship between Singapore and Japan. We discussed and reviewed bilateral cooperation in a wide spectrum of areas.
I am pleased to note that over the past 50 years, bilateral trade expanded almost 80-fold from S$587 million in 1966 to S$46.5 billion or approximately 3.6 trillion Japanese yen last year. Today, Singapore is Japan’s top Asian investor, while Japan is the second largest foreign investor in Singapore. As I mentioned to Prime Minister Abe, our strong trade and investment relations are underpinned by the Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA), which was Japan’s first free trade agreement and Singapore’s first with a major trading partner. As we commemorate SJ50, it is opportune for us to redouble our efforts to complete the third review of the JSEPA and bring it up to date with the evolving global economic landscape of today.
I also look forward to deepening the cooperation between Singapore and Japan in air, land and sea transportation through the Vice-Ministerial Transport Forum which our officials are looking to convene sometime next year. Through this platform, I hope both sides can work towards the expansion of the bilateral Air Services Agreement to strengthen connectivity not just between Singapore and Japan but also with the rest of the world. There is much we can do to further develop Singapore Changi and Tokyo Narita into airport hubs for our respective regions.
On the Shinkansen, Singapore recognises the long record of safety, reliability and efficiency of Japanese technology. In fact, I will be taking the Shinkansen during my visits to Kyoto and Miyagi over the next few days. We welcome Japan to put in a competitive bid for the High-Speed Rail project between Singapore and Malaysia in due course. Singapore and Malaysia will work together to ensure a rigorous, objective and transparent tender process to achieve our common interest of having the best technology for the project.
During our meeting, Prime Minister Abe and I talked about the strong people-to-people linkages between Singapore and Japan. I am particularly happy to see Singapore’s educational and cultural institutions stepping up cooperation with their Japanese counterparts through the various agreements signed today. This will go a long way in promoting mutual understanding and deepening relations for generations to come.
Prime Minister Abe and I also discussed bilateral cooperation in the financial sector. The Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Bank of Japan recently signed a local currency bilateral swap agreement which will enhance the financial stability of both Singapore and Japan. I also suggested to Prime Minister Abe that both our countries should update the existing Singapore-Japan Double Tax Agreement for our mutual benefit.
Apart from bilateral relations, we discussed regional issues and strategic issues. Singapore welcomes Japan to continue playing a positive role in the region under the framework of the US-Japan Security Alliance. We discussed the economic and strategic importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and agreed that it is in the interest of all TPP partners to ensure that the TPP is ratified and enters into force expeditiously. We also looked forward to a timely conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement.
Prime Minister Abe and I also reaffirmed the excellent relations between ASEAN and Japan, which is one of ASEAN’s most substantive relationships. I thanked Prime Minister Abe for Japan’s support for ASEAN’s integration and development, and encouraged Japan to continue working closely with ASEAN to further deepen economic relations.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Prime Minister Abe for his friendship and contribution to Japan’s relations with Singapore and the Southeast Asia region. As we round up a busy but fruitful year of SJ50 and consolidate our relations over the last half a century, I am confident that the relationship between Singapore and Japan will further strengthen and expand over the next fifty years and beyond.