Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Rafik Mansour, U.S.-Singapore Relations at 55: Our Shared Past and Future
Good evening everyone. It is a great pleasure to be here today with Professor Danny Quah and Professor Chan Heng Chee to discuss the U.S.-Singapore partnership. As Professor Chan is the longest-serving Singapore ambassador to the United States, I look forward to hearing her insights. I also want to thank Professor Quah and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy for working with U.S. Embassy Singapore to make this series of panel discussions a reality.
The U.S. and Singapore share a long history; our countries established diplomatic relations 55 years ago when the United States opened its embassy in Singapore. But our shared history dates back 185 years to the establishment of consular relations in 1836. Through the years, our enduring partnership has built a strong foundation for a secure, prosperous, and innovative shared future.
The United States and Singapore share deep economic, security, and people-to-people ties, which future sessions of this series will cover in detail. However, allow me to give a broad overview of these various aspects of bilateral cooperation. I will start with our economic ties.
U.S.-Singapore economic ties run deep, with a foundation in the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA)—the first U.S. FTA in Asia. Since the FTA came into effect in 2004, trade between the two countries has almost doubled. The U.S. is the largest single foreign investor in Singapore, with almost a quarter trillion in U.S. foreign direct investment in Singapore. There are over 4,500 U.S. firms registered in the country. The United States is Singapore’s top trading partner in services. On economic matters, there are few countries in the world that are more like-minded than the United States and Singapore. Whether it is supporting free trade, valuing the rule of law, or protecting intellectual property rights, our two countries are more often than not in strong agreement.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic – which has sent the global economy into one of its worst recessions ever – the U.S. and Singapore continue to work together to deepen economic cooperation. Recognizing the significant global tightening of credit during this economic downturn, both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last year to extend trade financing and investment support to companies in Singapore and the United States.
The United States and Singapore also share a deep and vital security and defense partnership, with Prime Minister Lee joining President Trump in signing the renewal of our defense MOU in 2019. We continue to work together to support the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. We have consistently partnered to address global threats and challenges, including terrorism, transnational crime, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
For example, Singapore was the first Southeast Asian country to join the Counter-ISIS campaign in 2014. We also have a standing annual Counterproliferation Dialogue which brings together experts for targeted discussions, and in 2016 we concluded a cybersecurity MOU which deepened information sharing and cooperation on cyber crime, cyber defense, and regional capacity building. These are just a few examples of the depth and breadth of our engagement on policy issues.
Our relationship is now increasingly defined by what we can do together to help other countries in the region. The most powerful example of this is the U.S.-Singapore Third Country Training Program (TCTP). Since its start in 2012, TCTP has held more than 50 workshops on a wide variety of public policy issues like cybersecurity, trade facilitation, and intellectual property rights. The program has also trained more than 1,300 government professionals from 11 different Asian countries. Not even COVID-19 could stop our TCTP efforts, as we continued our work virtually in 2020 and into 2021.
But we are not stopping there. Both of our countries are working with COVAX, to support global health efforts to fight COVID-19. Last week, President Biden announced the United States is purchasing 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines – the largest ever purchase and donation of COVID-19 vaccines by a single country – and donating them to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries. This will jumpstart robust vaccination efforts in some of the most hard-hit and underserved communities in the world.
Also, we are thrilled to be working with Singapore to address the challenges posed by climate change. Like Singapore, the United States is taking a whole-of-government approach to meeting the goal of net zero global emissions by 2050. From working to develop innovative agriculture technologies through our Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) to leveraging the power of our financial sectors to establish quantifiable, meaningful, and measurable standards for sustainable investment projects, we are proud to have a partner like Singapore leading the way to a more sustainable future.
Lastly, aside from bilateral ties that are cemented by formal agreements, the U.S. and Singapore also share deep people-to-people ties. More than 140 Singaporean companies are currently located in the U.S., and more than 4,500 American companies are based in Singapore. Each year, over 4,000 Singaporeans pursue higher education in the U.S. and more than 1,000 Americans study in Singapore’s universities. The citizens of both countries also enjoy visa-free travel between the United States and Singapore. Through these interactions, U.S. citizens and Singaporeans enjoy a robust exchange of ideas and a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures, values, and traditions.
I would like to take this opportunity to speak on behalf of the tens of thousands of Americans living, studying, and working here in Singapore. We value Singapore’s generous hospitality, level playing field, and boundless opportunity, and will continue contributing to our local communities as good neighbors, friends, and colleagues.
For 55 years, the United States and Singapore have worked together to create an expansive and enduring relationship based on mutual economic interests, robust security and defense cooperation, and longstanding people-to-people ties. These 55 years of partnership are just the beginning.
The United States is proud of the rich history between our countries and look forward to a prosperous shared future for many more years to come.
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