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13th Japan-Singapore Symposium – Forging Closer Ties

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21 Mar 13th Japan-Singapore Symposium – Forging Closer Ties

Together with the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) organised the 13th Japan-Singapore Symposium (JSS). The JSS is a platform which brings together opinion makers from the two countries to exchange views on their bilateral and other issues.

This year, JSS was held across 1.5 days on 18 and 19 March 2019 and was co-chaired by Professor Tommy Koh, Chairman of the Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore, and Ambassador Yoshiji Nogami, Vice-Chairman, Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). The symposium consisted of a full-day closed door session on the first day and a public forum on the second morning. The forum was attended by about 100 members of the public, academia and private sector.

The Singapore delegation was led by Dr Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade and Industry. The Japanese delegation was led by Mr Norikazu Suzuki, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In their Opening Remarks, the Co-Chairmen noted that the bilateral relationship was strong, substantial and trouble free. However, they face a very challenging external environment.

The first session focused on the true nature of the current relationship between the US and China and its implications for Japan and ASEAN. The consensus was that the two countries have entered into a new era of strategic competition, involving trade, technology, military power and global influence. The participants also had a good discussion on the comparative merits of the concept of Asia Pacific vis-à-vis the new concepts of Indo-Pacific and Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The Singapore participants expressed the view that any new proposal on regional architecture should be open and inclusive, have ASEAN as its centre and must bring tangible benefits to the region.

In the afternoon session, the participants turned their attention to the economic dimension. They examined the challenges posed by protectionism, nativism, xenophobia and the assault on multilateralism. It was agreed that Japan and Singapore should stand together to defend free trade, open economies, the multilateral trading system and economic integration. Participants also agreed to strengthen the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and, in a cautious way, to expand the membership. Japan and Singapore would also seek to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations expeditiously. At the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Japan and Singapore would work with other like-minded countries to reform but not to undermine the organisation.

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SIIA Chairman Simon Tay speaking at the JSS public forum

Themed, “Japan-Singapore Partnership:  Ascending A New Peak”, the JSS public forum started with keynote speeches by Mr Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Secretary General, Japan-Singapore Parliamentarians’ Friendship League; Mr Norikazu Suzuki, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Ministry of Japan and Dr Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The public forum reached the conclusion that, while the bilateral relationship is already comprehensive and substantial, there were new areas and opportunities for the two countries to harness. We should be ambitious and be determined to climb to a higher peak.