Joint Communiqué of the 13th Meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee
01 May 2023
|The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence
|Dr Ng Eng Hen
Minister for Defence
|Senator the Hon Penny Wong
Minister for Foreign Affairs
|Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
Minister for Foreign Affairs
|Senator the Hon Don Farrell
Minister for Trade and Tourism
|Mr Gan Kim Yong
Minister for Trade and Industry
- The Australia and Singapore Ministers met in Canberra for the 13th meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee (SAJMC) on 1 May 2023. The Ministers acknowledged the close friendship and ambitious partnership between Australia and Singapore, underpinned by shared interests in an open, stable and prosperous region, where sovereignty and international law are respected. The Ministers acknowledged that the strong partnership between Australia and Singapore, anchored by strategic trust and deep cooperation, is even more important at a time of increasing geostrategic uncertainty and complexity in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The Ministers recalled the Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) signed in 2015 and welcomed the significant progress made under all six pillars of the CSP as set out in the 10-year CSP Roadmap. They reaffirmed the strong commitment by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the October 2022 Annual Leaders’ Meeting to continue to strengthen the CSP. The Ministers tasked officials to begin work on developing the agenda for the next chapter of the CSP ahead of its 10th anniversary in 2025.
Economics, Trade and Investment
- The Ministers welcomed the strong trade and investment partnership between Australia and Singapore. They noted that both countries are among each other’s top trading partners and that bilateral trade volumes continued to grow, underpinned by the upgraded Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA). The Ministers looked forward to the 20th anniversary of SAFTA in July 2023 and acknowledged that it remained a modern and forward-looking agreement.
- The Ministers noted progress under the Australia – Singapore Supply Chains Working Group including through bilateral discussions on food, energy, connectivity and crisis response. Recalling the agreement between the Prime Ministers in October 2022 to begin work on an Australia-Singapore Food Pact, the Ministers acknowledged the progress made, including on a simplified model for transhipment of Australian meat products and regionalisation arrangements for animal diseases, and noted opportunities to work together to enhance the resilience of agri-food supply chains and promote agreed principles on sustainable agri-food systems. On energy, connectivity and crisis response, the Ministers were pleased to note good progress in discussions on both sides. The Ministers directed officials to finalise the guiding principles and workplan for the Food Pact before the 2024 Annual Leaders’ Meeting, and continue discussions to strengthen energy security, connectivity and crisis response cooperation.
- They underlined the importance of an open, inclusive, rules-based and resilient Indo-Pacific region, which supports and promotes free trade and open markets and respects the rights of countries to lead their national existence free from external interference, subversion and coercion. The Ministers affirmed their support for the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core, which has underpinned the region’s stability and prosperity for many decades. The Ministers agreed to continue to work closely to strengthen and reform the WTO, and emphasised the importance of implementing all 12th WTO Ministerial Conference outcomes, particularly the commitment to have a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all WTO members by 2024.
- The Ministers agreed to promote economic integration, investment and liberalisation of goods and services trade through the WTO, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the G20. The Ministers looked forward to advancing the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and agreed to work together, and with other partners, to ensure IPEF delivers concrete solutions to shared challenges, including decarbonisation, digital trade and supply chain resilience. The Ministers looked forward to the signing of the upgraded AANZFTA in 2023. The Ministers were also pleased to note the good progress made on implementing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The Ministers welcomed Singapore’s strong leadership during its chairmanship of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) Commission in 2022 and reaffirmed both countries’ continued commitment to the high standards of the CPTPP. The Ministers further noted Australia’s ambition to boost its trade and investment in the region and the importance of Singapore as a key regional hub, and welcomed the appointment of Australia’s Special Envoy Nicholas Moore who is leading the development of Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040. Singapore and Australia’s joint efforts to participate in regional trade flows ensure that they remain plugged in while maintaining the relevance and economic heft of their region.
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security
- The Ministers recalled the commitment made by the Prime Ministers in October 2022 to work together to build an Indo-Pacific region of dialogue and cooperation. They recognised that the CSP between Australia and Singapore reinforced regional stability and growth. The Ministers acknowledged the deep and ambitious ASEAN-Australia CSP and agreed that Australia would work with ASEAN to strengthen cooperation on key and emerging areas such as the digital and green economies, and energy security. The Ministers welcomed Australia’s proposal to host a Special Summit to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations in 2024. The Ministers expressed their support for ASEAN centrality and ASEAN‑led regional architecture, including the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) and reaffirmed the importance of working together to support the practical implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, including through the ASEAN-Australia CSP. The Ministers looked forward to working together to support Timor-Leste to build capacity in line with the objective, criteria-based ASEAN roadmap for Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN, which will be adopted at the 42nd ASEAN Summit.
- The Ministers discussed the need to work with partners in Southeast Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region to ensure the region remains open, stable and prosperous. They welcomed the Quad’s support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, including the Quad’s agenda to support Indo-Pacific countries’ priorities and needs.
- The Ministers welcomed the depth and breadth of defence and security cooperation between Singapore and Australia, built over decades and underpinned by a shared commitment to a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. They reaffirmed the value of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), which remain a key anchor of peace and stability in the region, and their joint commitment to preserving and enhancing the professional and strategic value of the FPDA. The Ministers expressed their satisfaction with Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) training in Australia, including through Exercise Wallaby 2022, Republic of Singapore Air Force detachments, and the joint development of training areas and advanced training facilities in Queensland; and Singapore’s continued support for Australian aircraft and ships in the region. They welcomed steps to increase the complexity of bilateral exercises, most notably Exercise Trident, increasing interoperability between the Australian Defence Force and SAF. They welcomed steps to strengthen cooperation on defence science and technology, logistics, and in the digital and information environments. Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence briefed the Ministers on Australia’s Defence Strategic Review.
- The Ministers underscored their commitment to work together in multilateral fora to support the international rules-based order, including by upholding international law and norms and a strong United Nations system, which protects the sovereignty of all countries in the region. The Ministers reaffirmed the commitment of Australia and Singapore to strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as its cornerstone and to supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency’s vital role in verifying fulfilment of States’ nuclear non-proliferation obligations. They acknowledged Australia’s commitment to responsible nuclear stewardship and setting the highest non-proliferation standard in relation to its acquisition of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS.
- The Ministers noted the strong ongoing security cooperation, including in the areas of counter‑terrorism (CT), cybersecurity and law enforcement. The Ministers noted relevant agencies had shared expertise in forensics, operational science and technology. They affirmed the value of Australia and Singapore’s close engagement on CT issues through the annual bilateral CT dialogue, an important platform to exchange views on managing the evolving terrorism threat. The Ministers noted Australia’s deployment of an Australian liaison officer to Singapore’s Counter-Terrorism Information Facility, a key multilateral counter-terrorism information sharing mechanism in Southeast Asia. They underscored the value of their close bilateral and regional cooperation on cybersecurity issues, including in international cyber discussions at the United Nations. The Ministers called for global adherence to the UN framework of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. They also acknowledged the importance of countering the threats of foreign interference as well as disinformation and misinformation.
- The Ministers reflected on the warm and close personal links between Australians and Singaporeans, underpinned by strong links in education and the arts. The Ministers recognised the New Colombo Plan’s success in increasing cultural literacy and personal connections through student exchange, with more than 200 Australian students supported to travel to Singapore in the first three months of 2023, and over 4,000 student grants being awarded for study in Singapore since 2014. The Ministers welcomed the significant bilateral arts and cultural engagement under the Australia Singapore Arts Group (ASAG), and looked forward to continuing cultural cooperation with Australia through ASAG as well as among the cultural institutions of both countries. The Ministers welcomed the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding in July 2022 between the National Library of Australia and the National Library Board, Singapore.
- The Ministers welcomed the substantive exchanges between the Australian and Singaporean public services. They commended the productive discussions at the 8th Australia-Singapore Public Service Roundtable (PSR) in April 2023, co-led by Australia’s Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Professor Glyn Davis and Singapore’s Head of Civil Service Leo Yip. During the PSR, both countries shared perspectives on building and sustaining trust in government.
Science and Innovation
- The Ministers noted the strong collaboration between Australia and Singapore in science, technology and innovation. They acknowledged progress under the new Synchrotron Access Agreement between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and National University of Singapore, noting that the first call-for-proposals had been well-received. They welcomed cooperation on low emissions technologies under the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Low Emissions Solutions. They reaffirmed both sides’ intent for greater research cooperation enabled by the Master Research Collaboration Agreement (MRCA) signed in October 2022 between the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore (A*STAR) and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to implement a five-year Research Industry ‘2+2’ Partnership in the areas of low-emissions technologies, alternative proteins and advanced manufacturing.
- The Ministers affirmed the opportunities presented by the digital economy and the value of collaboration between Australia and Singapore in supporting the growth of the digital economy. The Ministers affirmed their shared commitment in supporting the digital transformation of economies, including bilaterally through the Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement and the implementation of its collaborative projects, as well as through other regional frameworks, in particular the IPEF, and the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce.
- The Ministers recalled the commitment of the Prime Ministers to deepen cooperation and accelerate ambitious climate action. They welcomed the progressive work underway to implement the Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement (GEA) signed by the trade ministers in October 2022, as part of the new ‘Green Economy’ pillar of the CSP. The Ministers affirmed the need to work closely together to implement the GEA and deliver practical outcomes that help accelerate efforts to decarbonise economic activities, including the development of green skills. They noted that the growing collaboration across both governments and with business, industry and expert groups was paving the way for trade, investment and commercial opportunities in green sectors. They noted Singapore’s position as a regional hub and Australia’s ambition to become a renewable energy superpower provided a strong basis for advancing collaboration in several sectors, including clean energy, shipping, finance and emerging green technologies. The Ministers agreed to report on the GEA’s progress and key outcomes to the Prime Ministers when they meet later in the year for the Annual Leaders’ Meeting.
- The Ministers reaffirmed their aim for the GEA to serve as a model for cooperation with other partners to support the global transition to net zero economies, and acknowledged the positive progress made in this regard.
Global and Regional Developments
- The Ministers acknowledged that Australia and Singapore faced an era of heightened geostrategic uncertainty and threats to the international rules-based order. The Ministers agreed that all countries, regardless of their size, have a responsibility to contribute to global stability and to resolve disputes peacefully.
- The Ministers condemned Russia’s ongoing aggression against the people of Ukraine in a gross violation of international law, including the UN Charter. Consistent with UN General Assembly Resolution No. A/RES/ES-11/6 dated 23 February 2023, the Ministers demanded that Russia immediately withdraw its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, and underlined the need to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine as soon as possible. They urged Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- The Ministers noted with deep concern the worsening humanitarian, security and economic situation in Myanmar, including the military’s increasing use of violence against civilians. They expressed their disappointment at the lack of progress by the Myanmar military regime on the ASEAN Five Point Consensus, and reaffirmed the important roles of the UN, ASEAN, and its external partners in facilitating a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Myanmar. They strongly urged the regime to end violence against civilians, engage in inclusive dialogue, release those unjustly detained, and allow safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance. They reaffirmed the importance of working together to contribute to ASEAN’s efforts, including those of Indonesia as ASEAN Chair, to facilitate peace and national reconciliation in Myanmar.
- The Ministers underscored the importance of working together to promote peace and stability, including in the South China Sea, and of upholding a rules-based maritime order. They expressed serious concern over behaviour that increased the risk of miscalculation and unilateral actions, that had the potential to destabilise and challenge the status quo, such as the continued militarisation of disputed features. They urged all claimants to take meaningful steps to ease tensions and build trust, including through dialogue. The Ministers reaffirmed their strong support for freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded trade. The Ministers called for the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which is of universal character and sets out the comprehensive legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. They welcomed the conclusion of the high seas treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction and acknowledged Singapore’s leading role as President and Australia’s constructive engagement. The Ministers noted work towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and emphasised the importance of any Code being consistent with international law, particularly UNCLOS, and not prejudicial to the rights of all States, particularly under UNCLOS.
- The Ministers also exchanged views on the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The Ministers restated their commitment, as set out in the CSP, to bolster Australia and Singapore’s consultation and cooperation on regional and global challenges.
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