PERTH: President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s state visit to Australia came just as the new Australian government re-affirmed its engagement with Asia. Dr Tan said this was clear to him in his discussions with various Australian leaders he met in Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.
Speaking at the end of his six-day visit on Friday (June 20), Dr Tan told Singapore reporters that Australia sees Singapore not just as a market, but as a hub, and base from which they can expand into the region.
“They believe that they have the potential to increase their production level of natural gas. We are developing Singapore as a hub for trading and distribution of liquefied natural gas. This is an area which could be further developed,” noted Dr Tan.
“Perhaps also in the area of tourism; particularly medical tourism, Singapore is developing as a hub. Western Australia could partner with Singapore so that patients who require long-term treatment after being treated could come to Western Australia to recuperate. There could be potential there.
“Our companies have been quite active in the hospitality sector in Australia, including Western Australia, so they are now moving into hospitals, and I think this is an area which is quite interesting. And of course, Western Australia also sees Singapore as a hub for which they can export their agriculture products to our part of the world, and the prospects for tourism are very high,” Dr Tan continued.
A trade delegation from Canberra is now in Singapore to push for direct flights between the two cities – something which Dr Tan said Singapore welcomes and is happy to discuss. But more than business opportunities, Dr Tan said Singapore also believes Australia can play a constructive role in the region.
“That is why we have supported Australia’s active engagement in ASEAN, and other regional fora, and we have worked with Australia in forums like the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. And we share a common interest in strengthening the regional architecture, as well as to keep the region open and constructive — so that it’s not closed and it’s an open architecture — (and) work with other countries, encourage trade and good relations,” said the President.
“And in economic terms and issues, we also work with Australia to push for more regional economic liberalisation and integration, in APEC as well as in the TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Dr Tan also had special praise for Australia’s support in helping to locate missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. He said that it had provided unprecedented resources to support the search for the plane, and that relatives of the victims on board would be grateful.
Apart from the high-level exchanges with Australian leaders, Dr Tan said he is also happy to have met many Singaporeans living and working in Australia.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Australia, and Dr Tan said there are already plans to commemorate the occasion. Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove has also accepted the President’s invitation to visit Singapore.
New momentum for Singapore-Australia ties expected