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PM Lee calls on US to pursue 'positive economic agenda' in the region, welcomes proposed US-led economic framework

WASHINGTON, DC — As the United States looks to grow its strategic and economic space in the Asia Pacific, it is key for the US to advance “a positive economic agenda that is open, inclusive, up-to-date and flexible”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (March 29).

PM Lee calls on US to pursue 'positive economic agenda' in the region, welcomes proposed US-led economic framework

US President Joe Biden (right) at a joint news conference with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) in the East Room at the White House in Washington, US, on March 29, 2022.

  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed the upcoming US-led Indo Pacific economic framework
  • The framework will strengthen America's engagement in the evolving regional economic architecture
  • A joint statement by Singapore and the US said the framework will expand cooperation on trade, supply chains, clean energy, decarbonisation, infrastructure, tax and anti-corruption
  • Mr Lee said the Biden administration is "completely focused on achieving something lasting in Asia"
  • It is important that US advances “a positive economic agenda that is open, inclusive, up-to-date and flexible”, he added

WASHINGTON, DC — As the United States looks to grow its strategic and economic space in the Asia Pacific, it is key for the US to advance “a positive economic agenda that is open, inclusive, up-to-date and flexible”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said  on Tuesday (March 29).

He welcomed the US’ proposed Indo-Pacific economic framework, which was first outlined in October 2021 during the annual East Asian Summit with representatives from Asian countries, though there have been few details about it since.

Mr Lee was speaking at a joint press conference following an hour-long meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington, where the topic of US’ engagement in the Asia Pacific was discussed.

In his opening remarks at the start of the meeting, Mr Lee noted that US presence in the region has fostered peace, stability and security in the region for decades. 

“We therefore welcome America's proposed Indo-Pacific economic framework, which will strengthen America's engagement in the evolving regional economic architecture,” he said at the joint press conference. 

In a joint statement following the meeting, both countries said that the framework will expand cooperation on trade, supply chains, clean energy, decarbonisation, infrastructure, tax and anti-corruption.

The US also intends to host a special summit between the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) soon. Such a summit was last scheduled to take place on March 28 and 29 in Cambodia, which holds the Asean chairmanship this year, but was postponed because some leaders were unable to make it.

Asked how the Biden administration fared when it came to the US’ engagements in Asean, Mr Lee said that there is consensus within the US on the direction of its policy in Asia “on a broad level” to try to develop a stable and predictable relationship with China, while engaging other countries in the region as well.

Such engagements expand beyond strategic and security issues, to areas of economic cooperation, trade, investments, as well as environmental sustainability.

“At the level of specific policies, each administration launches new initiatives. I'm quite convinced, having seen several administrations, that this one is completely focused on achieving something lasting in Asia,” Mr Lee said.

“We in Singapore will do our best to help to make sure that their proposals work and take root, and continue to grow for many years to come.” 

NEW BILATERAL AGREEMENTS INKED

The Singapore delegation also met with US Vice-President Kamala Harris on Tuesday to discuss further areas of bilateral cooperation. 

Apart from Mr Lee, the delegation includes Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo and Mr Ashok Mirpuri, Singapore’s ambassador to the US.

Both countries on Tuesday expanded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to deepen cooperation on infrastructure development. 

Among other things, the MOU expands the collaboration between Infrastructure Asia and the US’ International Development Finance Cooperation to cover green and sustainable infrastructure projects in the region.

Infrastructure Asia was established by trade agency Enterprise Singapore and the Monetary Authority of Singapore to support infrastructure financing and development in the region.

New approaches to activate and mobilise private sector participation will also be explored, such as a Clean Energy Roundtable involving businesses from the US, Singapore and the region, a Ministry of Trade and Industry factsheet stated on the new MOU. 

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore also announced the establishment of an annual US-Singapore Cyber Dialogue to strengthen cybersecurity cooperation between the two countries.

The announcement follows the signing of three MOUs to strengthen cooperation in cybersecurity across various agencies during Ms Harris’ official visit to Singapore in August last year.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore said in a statement: “The US-Singapore Cyber Dialogue will see senior government officials from the cyber operational, technical and policy units of various agencies come together to discuss and move forward existing practical bilateral cooperation.” 

On Monday, Singapore also became the 18th member of the US-led Artemis Accords on peaceful and sustainable space exploration, the first Asean country to join the pact.

Related topics

Lee Hsien Loong Joe Biden ASEAN USA Politics

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