PRIME MINISTER LEE: Vice President Pence, ladies and gentlemen, may I extend a very warm welcome to Vice President and Mrs. Karen Pence to Singapore.
We last met at the White House last year, in October, when President Trump very kindly hosted me to lunch. And I’m very happy that the Vice President is now here for his first visit as Vice President, and I think first visit ever to Singapore.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: It is.
PRIME MINISTER LEE: We’ve had a very productive discussion this morning. We reaffirmed the robust and enduring partnership between Singapore and the U.S. It’s a deep and wide relationship with close cooperation in many areas, including economic, defense, and security.
Our leaders and our officials visit regularly in both directions. This of course includes, notably, President Trump coming to Singapore earlier this year for the summit with North Korea, and also other members of his administration, like the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, and the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who come here very often, including for the Shangri-La Dialogue.
The United States plays an important and constructive role in our region, and hence Singapore hopes to continue developing our ties with the U.S., as well to strengthen the ASEAN-U.S. relationship.
Already, on security, we are close partners. Singapore is the U.S.’s major security cooperation partner. I think we are the only country with this designation. We provide support for the U.S.’s military presence and defense engagements in the region, including rotational deployment of U.S. aircraft and Navy ships. And there are over 1,000 Singapore armed forces military personnel training in the U.S. every year.
We will work — we work closely, too, on security cooperation, including transnational security, terrorism, and cybersecurity. Singapore has lent early and consistent support to the defeat-ISIS coalition, including most recently deploying a counterterrorism-training unit to Iraq in September.
Our intelligence agencies cooperate very closely, and that cooperation has only strengthened as our counterterrorism efforts have progressed over the years.
Economically, our cooperation is dynamic and robust. The U.S.-Singapore FTA has been a cornerstone of our economic partnership. Goods and services trade has more than doubled since the U.S. FTA came into force. And currently, the U.S. has a trade surplus with Singapore of more than 20 billion U.S. dollars a year.
Singapore is the second-largest Asian investor in the U.S., with our companies and investments in more than 30 U.S. states, including in Indiana, Vice President Pence’s home state.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: That’s true.
PRIME MINISTER LEE: Our investments in the U.S., and the U.S. exports to Singapore, support more than a quarter million American jobs.
The U.S. is Singapore’s largest foreign investor, with nearly 4,500 American companies here, many basing their Asian headquarters, in order to do business in the region. For example, Honeywell opened its first Industrial Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Asia, here in April. And Johnson and Johnson, which is opening its first design lab outside New York, here in Singapore, too. Even Shake Shack is opening its first burger outlet in Singapore very soon — (laughter) — which is the most important investment of all. (Laughter.)
Although our bilateral relationship is already comprehensive, we are still uncovering new ways to cooperate — for example, in energy, advanced manufacturing, and technology partnerships — through the U.S.-Singapore Collaboration Platform MOU, which we have just renewed. I also welcomed the conclusion of a Tax Information Exchange Agreement and a reciprocal Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act — FATCA — Intergovernmental Agreement, which will strengthen our tax cooperation.
I am pleased that our cybersecurity agency and the U.S. State Department will be working together on a technical assistance program to conduct cybersecurity training workshops in Singapore, and also regionally.
Our friendship is underpinned by growing people-to-people ties. More than 4,000 students from Singapore study in the U.S. universities and colleges every year, including Bloomington, Indiana and Purdue University, which are popular among Singaporeans.
Singaporean and American undergraduates have also undertaken exchanges under the U.S.-Singapore Summer Exchange Scholarship Program, which was launched in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relations.
I’m confident that our strong and mature bilateral relationship will continue to strengthen at all levels. And I look forward to seeing Vice President Pence again next year when I hope to visit the United States.
Thank you, Vice President. (Applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you, Prime Minister Lee. Thank you for those wonderful words of friendship and partnership that has been forged through the generations, and for your leadership.
Thank you all for the hospitality you’ve extended. And your entire team has been remarkable in the course of the summits that have been just been engaged.
But I must tell you, we are especially grateful to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and Mrs. Lee, for the warm welcome that you’ve extended to me and my wife Karen. And we love the orchid, and we will display it proudly at the Vice President’s Residence when we return to the United States.
This is our third day in your extraordinary country. And, Mr. Prime Minister, let me congratulate you for successfully hosting the 6th U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the 13th East Asia Summit.
And as I commence today, let me bring greetings from your friend, the President of the United States, who is still grateful for the hospitality that you extended here in Singapore six months ago during the historic summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim. Now it’s our privilege to be back in your country, a country that’s an inspiration — inspiration not only across the Indo-Pacific, but, Mr. Prime Minister, Singapore is an inspiration to the entire world. And it’s our great privilege to be here with you and your family, and all the members of your government and your great people.
It’s really remarkable to think of Singapore’s success in only 53 short years. Your father, one of the 20th century’s most important statesmen, understood that the conditions necessary for human flourishing are no accident. They’re the products of choice and choices.
And your father made the choice to establish a nation on a foundation of economic freedom and the rule of law. From this foundation, Singapore has reached towering heights.
Here, two great oceans meet. And here, like nowhere else on Earth, can be found such variety, such contrast, such success, and such prosperity in such a small space. It’s truly an inspiration to the world. It’s a fair city of church spires, and minarets and domes, of symbols both ancient and modern.
And here in Singapore, one finds a city-state proud to find room for so much and so many. Mr. Prime Minister, Singapore shines brightly. And the United States is proud to call Singapore our strategic partner and our friend.
We’re also proud to stand together to advance our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Like you, Mr. Prime Minister, the United States seeks an Indo-Pacific where every nation is free to follow its own path, pursue its own interests where the seas and skies are open to all engaged in peaceful activity, and where sovereign nations grow stronger together.
Our vision excludes no nation, requiring only that every nation treat their neighbors with respect. Empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific. This is a region where every nation, large and small, must be permitted to prosper and thrive.
Under President Trump’s leadership, we’ve been advancing this vision of collaboration, not control. Our partnership with Singapore is actually emblematic of the bonds that we’ve forged over the generations and that we’re forging even now across the Indo-Pacific.
Our two nations, for instance, have shared a free trade agreement for nearly a decade and a half. And today, our two-way trade has soared to $75 billion. The United States is also the largest foreign investor in Singapore, as you just reflected. And Singapore is the second largest Asian investor in the United States of America. And for that investment and for the confidence in our people, we are grateful.
But when it comes to our partnership and prosperity, we believe we still have much room to grow. And the Prime Minister and I discussed today the United States and Singapore have finalized two new agreements that will facilitate that growth. First with the exchange of tax information between both of our nations. We’ve also agreed to a two-year framework for a collaboration platform that will deepen cooperation between our businesses and rapidly developing technologies, from 3-D printing to driverless cars.
Mr. Prime Minister, as we’ve agreed, this will benefit job creators and consumers in both of our countries and across Southeast Asia. And we’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with you in these initiatives.
But expanding commerce in the 21st century also requires safe and reliable digital access. And to that end, it’s my privilege today to announce that we will establish the U.S.-Singapore Cybersecurity Technical Assistance Program. This new initiative will leverage American business expertise to help our ASEAN partners defend their digital borders.
Our partnership also goes well beyond our shared prosperity and growth in these new agreements. And it goes into the all-important area of security.
Since 1990, Singapore has welcomed American naval vessels and service members. And our armed forces, as you said, Mr. Prime Minister, cooperate closely at several of Singapore’s military bases. The United States is also proud to train more of your military personnel on American soil than we do for any other country in the world.
Our security cooperation keeps open the lanes of commerce. And nearly a quarter of all global trade — worth more than $3 trillion — travels within a few miles of your coast each and every year, underscoring the importance of our security partnership.
Singapore and the United States stand together, and we stand strong. And we will continue to protect the freedom of the seas and skies across the Indo-Pacific together.
As we also discussed today, and yesterday at our summit, the United States encourages ASEAN to continue to move forward with a meaningful and binding code of conduct for the South China Sea. The countries of this region, including Singapore, must be able to explore and develop their own resources, navigate their own waters, and establish partnerships of their own choosing. And that includes in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation. And you can be confident, Mr. Prime Minister, the United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows and our national interests are advanced.
Mr. Prime Minister, let me — let me thank Singapore for the indispensable role that you’ve played in one other area, and that comes to the advance of negotiations toward a lasting peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. Singapore’s willingness to host the historic summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim this past June, on fairly short notice, proved once again that history happens here in Singapore. And we are grateful for your accommodation and for your leadership and support.
As we discussed today, we must continue to maintain the pressure campaign and enforce all U.N. sanctions until we achieve the final and fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. And your leadership, and the leadership and support of nations across this region, has been instrumental to advancing the progress that we have achieved.
It’s remarkable to think of a year and a half ago, Mr. Prime Minister, where nuclear tests were taking place, missiles were flying over Japan, there were threats and provocations against our nation and nations in the region. And today, no more missiles are flying. No more nuclear tests. Our hostages have come home. And North Korea has begun anew to return fallen American heroes from the Korean War to our soil. We’ve made great progress but there’s more work to be done.
The United States, as we discussed, is currently making plans for another summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim after the first of the year. And we remain determined to have the commitments of the Singapore declaration fulfilled.
Mr. Prime Minister, we are truly grateful for your leadership in this cause and for your continued support. So thank you again for your hospitality and for the time that you have afforded us during our all-too-brief stay here in your beautiful country.
It’s amazing to think, 53 years ago, Singapore made a choice, similar to the choice that the people of the United States of America made more than 240 years ago: to establish a nation on a foundation of economic freedom and the rule of law.
And, Mr. Prime Minister, you can be confident we will continue to stand together in defense of our shared values. We will continue to stand together to choose a bright and boundless future for us all.
Mr. Prime Minister, we are with you. The United States stands with you in Singapore today, and we always will.
So may God bless you. May God bless all the people of Singapore. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER LEE: Thank you, Vice President Pence.