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Australia and Singapore to forge even closer trading ties

Australia and Singapore to forge even closer trading ties article image

The 2003 Singapore-Australia free trade agreement, which helped make Singapore Australia's fifth largest trading partner, will be updated to improve exchanges in the areas of innovation, science, education and the arts.

This follows the two-day visit this week by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who became the first Singapore leader to address the Australian parliament.

In an address to a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, Mr Lee said both nations were open economies that relied heavily on international trade and global markets.

China is the largest trading partner for Singapore and Australia. Mr Lee indicated embracing China economically was important to stability.

"We wish to strengthen our cooperation with China and welcome China in engaging constructively with the region," he said.

He singled out the decision of both countries to join China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Pledge to work more closely

Australia further deepening ties with south-east Asia was also important, he said.

"Singapore believes that strengthening Australia's ties with Asia will keep the region open." 

Mr Lee and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have pledged to work more closely on regional security and tackling terrorism, while making it easier to invest and trade between the two nations.

The leaders will today sign a $2 billion deal under which 14,000 Singaporean troops will train for 18 weeks a year in central and northern Queensland and Singapore will be given special permission to develop military training facilities.

"Our decision to grant Singapore the special level of access underlies the enormous trust and respect that exists between our respective armed forces," Mr Turnbull told parliament.

Mr Lee praised Mr Turnbull for inviting ASEAN to a summit in Australia in 2018, when Singapore will be the chair.

Last year 400,000 Singaporeans visited Australia and about one million Australians visited the city state.

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