Channel NewsAsia

New strategic partnership in store for Singapore and Australia

Called Project 2025, the partnership will see new levels of bilateral integration in sectors including the economy and defence. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott will sign a joint declaration in 2015.

SINGAPORE: A 10-year roadmap to further enhance and deepen the Singapore-Australia partnership was agreed upon on Friday (Aug 22), at the Eighth Meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee (SAJMC).

Called Project 2025, the new comprehensive strategic partnership will mark a new era for Singapore-Australia ties. The roadmap will see new levels of integration between the two countries across four sectors: economic, foreign affairs, defence and security, and people-to-people fields.

Officials have been tasked to prepare a bilateral joint declaration that will be signed between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2015. This will also mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Australia.

Australia Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, and Assistant Minister for Defence Stuart Robert attended the SAJMC meeting, while Singapore was represented by Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Launched in 1996 by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Australia Prime Minister Paul Keating, the SAJMC is a high-level bilateral dialogue mechanism that is hosted alternately by Singapore and Australia. It was last held in Canberra in Sep 2012.

This year, the ministers spent the day discussing how best to elevate the long-standing relations between Singapore and Australia with regards to Project 2025. Said Ms Bishop: "We are going into areas that we have not been before. We're talking about labour mobility, looking for opportunities for things like working-holiday visas for young Singaporeans, young Australians, and bringing together a whole basket of initiatives and ideas that in the past, we might have thought about but never actually implemented."

There was also agreement to upgrade the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement to a closer economic partnership. This means re-examining some of the rules to "create an environment, a framework, that allows a freer flow of investments, people, capital", said Mr Shanmugam. 

Foreign affairs will also see enhanced consultations on regional and international issues, while in defence, there will be more exchanges at the military and official levels. The sharing of intelligence to counter terrorism and radicalisation was also discussed, in view of the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Syria. Said Dr Ng: "We felt that we could exchange more information because these threats, if they materialise, will affect all citizens of all races and all religions."

In the area of people-to-people relations, the ministers agreed to step up cooperation in research and innovation, education, women, and arts and culture. They also committed to expand public-sector cooperation and exchanges.

The Australian ministers later called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana.