Sunday, 5 Jul 2020

Asean working with partners to further free trade agreement with Australia and NZ: PM Lee

SINGAPORE – Asean is working closely with its partners to support the open, rules-based international order and multilateral system, and has recently concluded recommendations for a general review of the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Nov 14).

He was referring to the agreement which is expected to provide better market access and more certainty for businesses in the free trade regions.

In his statement after the Asean-Australia informal breakfast summit at Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Mr Lee added that tremendous progress has been made this year to advance negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as well.

He stressed the importance of having like-minded partners such as Australia and Asean continue to work closely together, upholding the multilateral system from which countries have benefited.

This comes against the backdrop of security threats evolving beyond terrorism and violent extremism, to cyber threats from entities seeking to undermine governments and divide societies, he said.

Political and trade tensions between major powers are also leading to geopolitical uncertainty and pressure on world trade, he added.

“We should continue to work together for greater trade liberalisation and economic integration in the region,” said Mr Lee, who noted that the World Trade Organisation recently downgraded its forecast for next year’s global trade growth as a result of escalating trade tensions between the United States and China.

Mr Lee also flagged the need to strengthen resilience against emerging security challenges.

This is the case particularly for cyber security, given that countries are becoming more digitalised and connected. He said: “We look forward to furthering our cooperation to support international norms on cyber security and develop a rules-based cyberspace.”

He said Asean looks forward as well to furthering cooperation with Australia on smart city development through the Asean Smart Cities Network, and the Asean-Australia Smart Cities Initiative.

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