SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It is especially a pleasure to have my good friend the foreign minister here at the State Department. We work closely together going back many years now, including my last stint in government, and we had an opportunity to see each other in New York at the UN General Assembly for the U.S.-ASEAN meeting. But it’s always very, very valuable for me and for us to be able to spend time directly.
So Vivian, welcome. Wonderful to have you here today. We had, as always, both an insightful and productive meeting covering everything from the important work in our bilateral relationship following on Vice President Harris’s visit to Singapore, to work that we’re doing together in the region both directly as well as through ASEAN, and really affirmed the very strong partnership between the United States and Singapore, and a shared commitment to peace, to prosperity, to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
A number of important initiatives that we’ve been working on – again, coming out of the Vice President’s trip – particularly our work to build supply chain resilience, to potentially cooperate more when it comes to space, and, of course, the vital work that we’re all doing to bring COVID-19 to an end and to address the challenges posed by climate change. We spent some time, as I mentioned, talking about some of the regional challenges we face, including in Myanmar, as well as the importance of upholding basic maritime principles in the region as well.
But we also have a piece of business to do, which is one that I take great pleasure in, and that is formally renewing an agreement that we’re about to sign on third-country training, where together for the past decade the United States and Singapore have been working very closely. I think, Vivian, by my – by our count, at least, we have together trained more than 1,500 government officials from countries in the region, working in areas like cyber security, health security, smart cities, and Singaporean, American experts working together, teaching together, sharing together I think has been a very powerful thing.
What we’ve agreed going forward is that we will make sure that there is also an emphasis now on dealing with the climate crisis and environmental sustainability. And so in addition to areas we’ve already been working together in on training, we’re going to make sure that we do that.
So simply put, welcome, my friend. Thank you for this partnership. Thank you as well for the shared vision about the future for our countries and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
FOREIGN MINISTER BALAKRISHNAN: Well, maybe I get to respond to that. Tony, thank you for this wonderful opportunity to be back here, to catch up with you in different incarnations. But you’ve been a friend and a partner for many years. But in fact, the United States has been a friend and partner to Singapore for decades. And we’re a young nation; it’s only 56 years, of which I think we’ve had relations for 55 years. And a lot of the success of Singapore could – can actually be traced to the United States’ role in establishing a rules-based multilateral system, economic integration, free trade, and investments. And it’s no accident the United States is the largest foreign investor in Singapore, and remains so by a large – to a – by a large extent, and remains a major trading partner to us, and, in fact, still number one for services. And I don’t even need to highlight the very close relationship in defense, security – these are longstanding, traditional areas where there’s been a huge reservoir of trust and goodwill.
But now we’re also looking to the future and following up on Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Singapore. Climate change, pandemic preparedness, supply chain resilience; other areas of global commons, including space; a new partnership for growth and innovation – it’s a really full agenda, fit for purpose for the future.
So again, this is another index of a vibrant, up-to-date, growing relationship, and I want to thank you for your role in shepherding this through. I also want to thank you. I know how busy you have been, and the Secretary of State has got preoccupations all over the globe, but you spent more than your fair share of bandwidth on ASEAN and engaging all the – of us in ASEAN, in Southeast Asia, and I want to express a vote of thanks for that.
On the third-country training program, it’s incredible that it’s been 10 years and, as you’ve said, 1,500 trainees later. Fifty agencies have been involved on both sides, and we’re now updating it to include other emerging areas, particularly in the digital space, smart cities, epidemic preparation. So this is our fourth cycle, and may we continue this for the long term. It’s a wonderful example of how we can work together, do good together, and be helpful to our neighbors, especially in my neck of the woods.
So thank you, and I’m privileged to sign this renewal. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you so much, Vivian. So on to the signing.
(The memorandum was signed.)
Now it’s official.
FOREIGN MINISTER BALAKRISHNAN: Yes, signed and sealed.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.