SINGAPORE: Singapore and Australia on Monday (Mar 23) agreed to keep markets open and supply chains running amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his counterpart Scott Morrison welcomed the conclusion of several key agreements during the 5th Singapore-Australia Leaders’ Meeting, which was held via video-conference on Monday, said MFA.
The two countries also agreed to continue sharing best practices to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic which, the leaders noted, is “a serious public health crisis”, said MFA in a press statement.
“They also agreed on the importance of keeping markets open and supply chains functioning to support the delivery of supplies essential for dealing with the pandemic.”
READ: Australia starts lockdown measures as coronavirus cases jump
READ: Asia-Pacific economies face US$211 billion hit from virus, says S&P
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to hold their annual meeting virtually, showing that “in this digital age, government-to-government business can continue despite the adverse circumstances”, said MFA.
“It also reflects the shared commitment to advance bilateral relations, even as both sides deal with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Once the virus outbreak is brought under control, “a stable and open global trading system will be crucial for a global economic recovery”, said the two leaders as they agreed to work together to that end, including in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) and at the G20.
Mr Lee and Mr Morrison witnessed the signing of the Treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development, and announced the conclusion of negotiations for a Digital Economy Agreement and seven related Memoranda of Understanding (MOU).
READ: SAF to increase scale, complexity of overseas training in areas up to 80 times size of Singapore
A new Digital Economy pillar will also be added under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on top of the existing four pillars.
Both countries also signed MOU on cybersecurity, as well as food safety and standards.
During the meeting, Mr Lee and Mr Morrison reaffirmed the “excellent” state of bilateral relations and reviewed their cooperation under the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement in 2015, which established the annual meeting between leaders of the two countries.
They also expressed their commitment to deepen and expand cooperation in all areas.
Commentary: COVID-19 emphasises the importance of Singapore’s free trade agreements
The leaders agreed on the potential to collaborate further in low-emissions solutions, with the aim to conclude an MOU in 2020.
“At a time of global uncertainty, Australia and Singapore both offer a model of good governance and productive international cooperation,” the prime ministers said in a joint statement.