Singapore, Japan reaffirm strong economic partnership

Singapore and Japan reaffirmed their strong bilateral ties at the annual 15th Japan-Singapore Symposium (JSS), amid a challenging global order. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Japan Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA), which is Singapore’s first free-trade agreement (FTA) with a major trading partner and Japan’s first-ever FTA. 

Held on 25 and 26 January 2022, the 15th JSS was co-chaired by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Singapore and Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, President, Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). The event was co-organized by the JIIA and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). 

Themed, “Japan – Singapore Partnership in Regional Cooperation”, the JSS public forum started with keynote speeches by Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan and Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore. This was followed by live comments from Taro Kono, former Foreign Minister, Japan.

In his keynote speech, Hayashi said amid the challenging regional security environment and the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore is an important partner for Japanese diplomacy. Japan and Singapore are united in their support of the rule of law, the freedom of navigation and free trade. 

There is much room for cooperation, especially in strengthening supply chains, building quality infrastructure, and enabling digital transformation. This includes cooperation in the following areas –

  • Support for Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific
  • Improving connectivity in the ASEAN region, in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in March 2021 between Japan and Singapore on promoting cooperation on regional infrastructure projects.
  • Maintain high standards for trade agreements such as the CPTPP and RCEP, especially with new parties applying to join the CPTPP
  • Maritime cooperation through the Japan-Singapore Partnership Program for the 21st Century (JSPP21)
  • Pandemic cooperation

Balakrishnan emphasized that despite disruptions to the global supply chain due to the pandemic, Japan has remained one of Singapore’s top trading partners and Singapore continues to be a popular destination for Japanese investments. He highlighted that Singapore and Japan should actively explore even more opportunities for collaboration, such as in the emerging areas of digitalization, innovation, and the green economy, as well as infrastructure cooperation in third countries.

Taro agreed with the two foreign ministers. He would like Japan and Singapore to jointly promote cooperation, not only in tackling COVID-19, but also in fields such as green, digital, and third-country infrastructure cooperation in a way that would benefit the region.

Image credit: iStock/ StockByM

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