SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad agreed on Monday (Jun 11) to explore new areas of collaboration between the two countries, such as trade and investments, for mutual benefit.
Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, called on Dr Mahathir on the sidelines of the 24th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan. He was accompanied by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, according to a press statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
At the call, Mr Teo and Dr Mahathir “reaffirmed the longstanding and extensive bilateral relations between Singapore and Malaysia”, MFA said.
They noted the frequent interactions between ministers and senior officials of both countries, and Mr Teo said both sides should continue to advance their bilateral ties on the basis of existing agreements, according to the statement.
In addition, the leaders exchanged views on regional and global developments and agreed that both countries should continue to cooperate to strengthen ASEAN and safeguard regional stability and development, MFA added.
Dr Mahathir is in Tokyo on his first foreign trip since winning a shock election last month.
He has since announced Malaysia’s intention to cancel or review projects and deals agreed to by the previous government, including a high-speed rail project with Singapore.
The new government is also reviewing a US$14 billion local rail line to be built by Chinese companies, and Dr Mahathir said on Monday that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal should be renegotiated so smaller economies like Malaysia can compete against giants China and the United States.
WORLD AT “INFLEXION POINT”
Mr Teo is on a three-day visit to Tokyo since last Saturday to attend the conference.
He delivered the keynote speech in place of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was originally meant to address the conference but is staying in Singapore for the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.
In his speech, Mr Teo said the world is at an “inflexion point”.
“Do we turn our backs on the openness and integration that has brought millions out of poverty and provided the promise of a better life? Or, do we strengthen our commitment to openness and integration, taking into account new realities, and find ways to make the necessary adjustments in the spirit of cooperation, collaboration and mutual respect?” he asked.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that it is important than for all countries to step forward and work together, to increase the openness and linkages among our economies.
“In Singapore, Japan will find a reliable and steady partner for this journey,” he added.
On the sidelines of the conference, Mr Teo exchanged greetings with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Monday.
The two “reaffirmed the longstanding and strong ties between Singapore and Japan”, PMO said.
Mr Teo and Mr Heng also met Japan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso.
They discussed how Singapore and Japan can further strengthen and deepen their relations, and exchanged views on regional and global issues including how Singapore can contribute to Japan’s G20 Presidency in 2019, according to PMO.
In addition, Mr Teo and Mr Heng had lunch with members of the Japan-Singapore Parliamentary Friendship League and met former Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani.
Aside from Dr Mahathir, Mr Teo and Mr Heng also called on Vietnam Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, who was also participating in the conference. During the meeting, they discussed how to strengthen bilateral ties and ASEAN collaboration, as well as regional developments, PMO said.
Mr Teo departed Tokyo for Singapore on Monday evening, while Mr Heng will continue to meet Japanese government and finance leaders in Tokyo, PMO added in its statement.