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Singapore Prime Minister Lee Backs Trans Pacific Partnership and Stronger U.S. Ties

A Conversation with Lee Hsien Loong

Speaker: Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister, Republic of Singapore
Presider: J. Stapleton Roy, Distinguished Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
June 24, 2014

Event Description

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joins J. Stapleton Roy of the Woodrow Wilson Center to give his perspective on current events in the Asia-Pacific region. Lee expresses optimism that China's territorial disputes with its neighbors can be managed peacefully, though he also warns of rising nationalist sentiment in the region. Lee also discusses his country's relations with the United States, the U.S. strategic rebalance toward Asia, and the pending Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Event Highlights

Lee Hsien Loong on the pending Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal and its importance for relations between Asia and the United States:

"The president has talked about rebalancing towards Asia and the importance of Asia to America. And we strongly support that. And we understand that for that to be meaningful and to have substance, it cannot just be just talk. It cannot even just be security which is important, but it has to be a broad engagement of the region, and you have to have policies, measures, specific projects which we'll work with the partners in the region where it's win-win and people say, yes, America is a good and worthy friend and I'm on your side. And the TPP is one serious measure which shows the seriousness of your purpose."

Lee Hsien Loong on the territorial disputes and tensions between China and its neighbors:

"I would say that none of the Southeast Asian countries want to have a fight with China. In fact, China, too, goes considerably out of its way to develop friendly relations with ASEAN. And we have very thoughtful, comprehensive, committed plans to do that. But there is this issue of the territorial and the maritime disputes, and it is not easy to resolve because of another factor which has changed in 10 years, and that is that nationalism has become a stronger sentiment and a stronger factor in influencing government."

Lee Hsien Loong on the challenge of maintaining national identity in a small and open city-state like Singapore:

"Now, if we are going to prosper, we must be one of the leading cities in the world, because otherwise there are any number of cities in Asia which have 3 million population or even 5 million population. What makes us stand out? That in Singapore, talent can come, talent wants to come, and our own talent has every opportunity to develop, to grow, and to become outstanding, and to be able to contribute beyond just in Singapore, in the region to do business or overseas, internationally, to have a diaspora, and to have that identity that Singapore is a place which is special and where the human spirit flourishes. How to do that and yet preserve the Singaporeaness of this country where people do national service, they serve the nation, they identify themselves as Singaporeans?"

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