Singapore, Australia sign Comprehensive Strategic Partnership deals

CANBERRA: Singapore and Australia on Thursday (Oct 13) signed the first set of agreements under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), a landmark pact that is expected to take bilateral relations to the next level.

Four Memorandums of Understanding in the areas of defence, trade, science and innovation, and anti-drug trafficking were signed.

Under the defence initiatives, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be able to conduct training in Australia for 18 weeks a year with 14,000 troops – up from six weeks and 6,600 troops. Training areas will also be larger – increased to around 10 times the size of Singapore – and both sides will also jointly develop new training facilities in Australia.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence said these new initiatives will help the SAF to maintain operational readiness as “a capable, integrated fighting force over the long term”.

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement will get a third upgrade, which will come into force next year. The updated agreement is expected to help business travellers move more freely between the two countries, reduce red tape, and improve access to government procurement in both countries.

The two countries share strong trade links, with bilateral trade reaching S$20 billion in 2015. Singapore is Australia’s fifth largest trade and investment partner, and its largest trading partner within ASEAN.

In the science and innovation space, both governments will match monetary contributions amounting to a total of S$50 million to support areas of mutual interest.

Singapore’s National Research Foundation and the Australia Department of Industry, Innovation and Science will drive the initiatives. Priorities include collaboration on research and development, the sharing of research space, and cooperation among tech start-ups from both sides.

Both countries will also work together to tackle international drug trafficking. Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau and the Australian Federal Police will cooperate to take down organised criminal groups, hold joint training for officers as well as exchange information and best practices.