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Singapore and Japan reaffirm strong ties at the 15th Japan-Singapore Symposium

26 Jan Singapore and Japan reaffirm strong ties at the 15th Japan-Singapore Symposium

Singapore and Japan reaffirm strong ties at the
15th Japan-Singapore Symposium

Digitalisation and Infrastructure Cooperation amongst areas highlighted to deepen Japan-Singapore bilateral ties 

Singapore, 26 January 2022 – Singapore and Japan reaffirmed their strong bilateral ties at the annual 15th Japan-Singapore Symposium, amid a challenging global order. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Japan Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA), which is Singapore’s first free-trade agreement (FTA) with a major trading partner and Japan’s first-ever FTA. The JSS has since served as a key platform that brings together opinion leaders from the two countries to exchange views on their bilateral and key geopolitical and economic issues.

2          Held on 25 and 26 January 2022, the 15th JSS was co-chaired by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Singapore and Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, President, Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). The event was co-organised by the JIIA and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). Held across two days, the symposium comprised a half-day closed door session on the first day and a public forum on the second morning. The public forum was attended by over 280 members of the public, academia, and private sector from Japan and Singapore.

3          In their Opening Remarks, the ambassadors noted the Japan-Singapore bilateral relationship is in excellent order and should grasp new opportunities to bring this relationship forward. Japan and Singapore can play an important role in sustaining and developing regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

4          Themed, “Japan – Singapore Partnership in Regional Cooperation”, the JSS public forum started with keynote speeches by Mr. Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan and Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore. This was followed by live comments from Mr. Taro Kono, former Foreign Minister, Japan.

5          In his keynote speech, Mr Hayashi said amid the challenging regional security environment and the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore is an important partner for Japanese diplomacy. Japan and Singapore are united in their support of the rule of law, the freedom of navigation and free trade. There is much room for cooperation, especially in strengthening supply chains, building quality infrastructure, and enabling digital transformation. This includes cooperation in the following areas –

  • Support for Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific
  • Improving connectivity in the ASEAN region, in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in March 2021 between Japan and Singapore on promoting cooperation on regional infrastructure projects.
  • Maintain high standards for trade agreements such as the CPTPP and RCEP, especially with new parties applying to join the CPTPP
  • Maritime cooperation through the Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st Century (JSPP21)
  • Pandemic cooperation

6          Dr. Balakrishnan emphasised that despite disruptions to the global supply chain due to the pandemic, Japan has remained one of Singapore’s top trading partners and Singapore continues to be a popular destination for Japanese investments. He highlighted that Singapore and Japan should actively explore even more opportunities for collaboration, such as in the emerging areas of digitalisation, innovation, and the green economy, as well as infrastructure cooperation in third countries.

7          Mr. Taro agreed with the two foreign ministers. He would like Japan and Singapore to jointly promote cooperation, not only in tackling COVID-19, but also in fields such as green, digital, and third-country infrastructure cooperation in a way that would benefit the region.

8          Speaking at the public forum were –

  • Dr. Tsutomu Kikuchi, Senior Adjunct Fellow, JIIA / Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University
  • Prof. Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA
  • Dr. Saori Katada, Professor, University of Southern California
  • Mr. Manu Bhaskaran, Founding Director and CEO, Centennial Asia Advisors

9          The session focused on areas in which Japan and Singapore can further strengthen ties amid rising US-China tensions and the pandemic. Concerns were raised about how the emergence of groupings such as the Quad and AUKUS could undermine ASEAN centrality. The Japanese participants addressed that collaboration between the Quad and ASEAN could further strengthen the Indo-Pacific security architecture.

10        As Japan and ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary of dialogue relations next year, Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA emphasised at the forum, “There needs to be continuity in Japan-ASEAN relations across changes in government, and in the face of crises such as economic downturns, pandemics, and political turmoil, such as in Myanmar. The Japan-Singapore partnership can serve as a steady pillar within the ASEAN and regional relationships.”

11         The public forum reached the conclusion that while Japan and Singapore enjoy strong bilateral relations, cooperation can be further strengthened in terms of infrastructure cooperation in the region and signing of a potential digital economy agreement (DEA).


Media Contacts

Rohini Nambiar
Senior Policy Research Analyst and Media (ASEAN)

More Information

About the Japan-Singapore Symposium (JSS)

The JSS was launched in 1994 by then Prime Minister of Japan Mr Murayama Tomiichi and then Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Goh Chok Tong. It began as a Track 1.5 forum between the Japanese and Singapore government and business leaders, and scholars, focusing on business and economic cooperation and bridge-building between the two countries. Held biennially since 1995, the JSS provides opportunities for representatives of different sectors from both countries to exchange views on issues of interest, and get to know one another better. On 26 April 2016, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Japan and Singapore, both countries announced that the JSS would be upgraded to an annual event.

About the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA)

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Established in 1962, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) is a non-profit and independent think tank committed to producing policy analysis, fostering in-depth dialogues and bridging gaps between policymakers, private sector decision-makers and experts to shape public policy and social responses. Centred around ASEAN focused themes, the institute aims to deliver policy analysis in international affairs and on issues driving environmental sustainability. The SIIA has been consistently ranked as one of the leading think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in the Global Go To Think Tank Index by the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2017, the SIIA was ranked the No. 1 independent think tank in Asia. It was also recognised as one of the top 50 think tanks globally, excluding the United States of America. For two consecutive years since 2019, it was recognised as the No. 1 think tank in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific (excluding India). In 2020, it was also recognised as one of the think tanks with the best policy and institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) 

JIIA, founded in 1959, is a private, nonpartisan policy think tank focused on foreign affairs and security issues. In addition to conducting a wide range of research projects, the Institute promotes dialogues and joint studies with other institutions and experts at home and abroad, examines Japan’s foreign policy, makes proposals to the government, and disseminates information on international relations to the public. JIIA, together with its large network of affiliated scholars, aims to serve as an indispensable resource on international affairs in a complex world. For more information about JIIA, visit