SINGAPORE: Australia and Singapore are deepening bilateral ties and exploring new areas of collaboration, such as in the digital economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison said on Friday (Jun 7).
Mr Morrison was in Singapore for an annual meeting under the two countries' Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Both leaders highlighted developments in relations in the economy and in security co-operation. Bilateral trade and tourism between the nations have grown, Mr Lee said.
"We're jointly developing military training areas in Queensland, and look forward to finalising this agreement to a treaty this year," said Mr Lee after breakfast at the Istana and talks with Mr Morrison in the morning.
"We also explored new areas of collaboration, for example, in cybersecurity, food security and in the digital economy."
Mr Morrison said that he hopes to see "significant progress" in collaborations on the digital economy before the end of the year.
BOTH COUNTRIES "SEE EYE-TO-EYE ON MANY ISSUES"
Mr Lee said that they also exchanged views on regional and global issues, adding that Australia and Singapore "see eye-to-eye on many issues".
"I welcome Australia's continued deep engagement in the region," he said.
Mr Morrison commended Mr Lee on a speech in which he laid out the strategic tensions between China and the United States, delivered at the Shangri-La Dialogue last Friday.
The world's two biggest economies have been engaged in a bruising trade war for months, and their dispute recently spilled over into the tech sphere after US President Donald Trump blacklisted Chinese technology giant Huawei on grounds of national security.
"I want to thank you Prime Minister for your strong leadership on the issues that are confronting our region ... I thought it provided some incredibly useful insights that Australia shares and I believe others share also," Mr Morrison said.
"(It) provided a great deal of clarity on the way that independent sovereign states, particularly in the Pacific, can go forward in engaging with the challenges that are present."
Both leaders also said they hope that negotiations on potentially the world's largest trade pact are on track to be completed by the end of the year.
Negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which involves 16 Asia-Pacific countries, have been ongoing since 2012 and Mr Lee said in November last year that there have been "significant breakthroughs".
"This is an important opportunity, it has had some frustration in terms of the many electoral cycles of its partners (this year) ... but with much of that now completed, I think there is a very good opportunity ... to meet that timetable," said Mr Morrison.
Mr Lee said: "I think it's important because concluding the RCEP this year will send a strong signal to the business community that our region is open for business and is committed to continue operating on the basis of an open, free and rules-based environment."
China has backed RCEP - of which the US is not a member - amid its prolonged trade showdown with President Donald Trump.
RCEP negotiations gathered steam after Mr Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact advocated by his predecessor Barack Obama that did not include China.
Mr Morrison, speaking at a business lunch after the joint press conference, also urged countries to continue expanding partnerships with one another even as Washington and Beijing struggle to resolve their disputes.
"It's a very negative influence on global economic performance ... This is frustrating because many of the fundamentals of the global economy have strengthened," said Mr Morrison.
Mr Morrison staged an unexpected election victory on May 18 after coming to office 10 months ago in a party coup against his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.
He is in Singapore after stops in the Solomon Islands and London, where the Australian prime minister marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and other world leaders.