Singapore country brief
Australia and Singapore have a strong and vibrant relationship. Australia was the second country to recognise Singapore when it became an independent nation in 1965. In 2015, Australia and Singapore elevated their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), which encompasses all aspects of our relationship including trade, defence, science and innovation, education and the arts.
Our prime ministers meet every year. Prime Minister Morrison and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong held a virtual meeting in March 2020 and met in person in Singapore in June 2019. Our Prime Ministers also met in 2018, 2017 and 2016.
Singaporean and Australian cabinet ministers also meet regularly – either during bilateral visits or regional and multilateral meetings. Foreign Minister Marise Payne visited Singapore from 7 to 9 October 2020 and met Prime Minister Lee, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education Sun Xueling.
Under the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee (SAJMC), Australian and Singaporean Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence Ministers meet biennially to discuss bilateral trade, defence and security issues. The eleventh SAJMC was held in Sydney on 29 March 2019 and included Foreign, Defence and Trade Ministers from Australia and Singapore.
Trade and investment
Trade and business ties between Australia and Singapore are strong. Singapore is Australia's largest trade and investment partner in ASEAN and our sixth largest trading partner overall ($33.3 billion in two-way trade in 2019).
In August 2020, Australian and Singaporean Trade Ministers signed the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA). The DEA will upgrade the digital trade arrangements between Australia and Singapore under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA - signed 2003), which are already among some of the most ambitious globally.
A revised SAFTA Agreement, with new market access and greater certainty for exporters of goods, services and investment, entered into force on 1 December 2017.
Defence and security
Singapore is Australia’s close and highly capable defence partner in Southeast Asia, as reflected in the CSP. In March 2020, Australian and Singaporean Defence Ministers signed the Treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development, which aims to enhance and expand training opportunities for Singapore Armed Forces personnel in Australia.
Australia and Singapore have signed a range of MOUs to enhance defence cooperation, including on personnel exchanges, military intelligence cooperation and defence science and technology. In August 2017, we signed a treaty to enable the Republic of Singapore Air Force training at RAAF Base Pearce.
Australia and Singapore are both members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), which is a joint defence arrangement between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Our police forces cooperate closely and have signed MOUs on police collaboration to combat transnational crime and also to combat transnational drug crime. In March 2020, Australia and Singapore announced the renewal of an MOU on Cyber Security Cooperation.
Innovation and science
Both Singapore and Australia recognise the importance of innovation to create modern and dynamic economies. Singapore is a world leader in building a supportive, flexible environment for emerging businesses and Australia has a world-class research system and outward-looking creative, businesses that are ready to collaborate internationally. Australia and Singapore have signed an MOU on collaboration in innovation and science and in November 2019 we held the second Australia-Singapore Joint Strategic Dialogue on Innovation and Science. Australia has located one of its five start-up 'landing-pads' in Singapore to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. This initiative will support Australian companies to take advantage of Singapore's status as an emerging tech hub, and gain access to the wider ASEAN market.
People-to-people links between Australia and Singapore are strong, encompassing education, tourism and arts and culture. The Singaporean community in Australia stood at 72,860 people as of the 2016 Census. More than 130,000 Singaporeans have graduated from Australian universities. Since 2014, 2,918 Australian students have undertaken study and internships in Singapore under the New Colombo Plan.
Singapore and Australia are complementary tourism markets and enjoy close commercial links. Singapore is Australia's sixth largest inbound tourism market and seventh largest by expenditure (315,000 international arrivals from Singapore, and $1 billion expenditure as at 30 June 2020). We hold regular tourism talks and have signed an MOU to establish a framework for collaboration on research, data-sharing, and market insights.
Australia and Singapore are committed to cultural activities that further develop our people-to-people links. The Australia Singapore Arts Group – a team of arts and culture leaders from both nations – provides a focus for activity, advice and recommendations to support and strengthen arts and cultural engagement between our countries. We signed an MOU on cooperation in the field of Arts and Culture in 2015. Singapore and Australia signed an MOU on Cooperation in Sport in September 2017 to further our cooperation on sport and sports administration.