Article by Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov, published by The Straits Times on May 31, 2018

Thursday, 31 May 2018 14:29

This year marks an important date for Singapore-Russia interaction – the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our States. This jubilee is a good occasion to evaluate our achievements and outline new avenues of cooperation.

The history of our bilateral ties goes back to the 19th century. Many Russian navigators and people of art visited your country in the past. In summer 1841, the naval transport Abo under the command of lieutenant commander Andrey Yunker visited Singapore. In his popular book Frigate "Pallada" famous Russian writer Ivan Goncharov vividly depicted the adventures of the marine expedition under the flag of the Rear Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin from Kronstadt via Singapore to Japan. Russian writer and traveler Aleksey Vysheslavtsev portrayed Singapore in his Essays Written with a Feather and a Pencil from the Round-the-World Voyage in 1857, 1858, 1859 and 1860, which were based on his impressions.

On 27 March 1890, the Russian Consulate whose head became Artemiy Vyvodtsev was opened in Singapore. The following year it was visited by Tsesarevich Nikolay Aleksandrovich – future Emperor Nikolay II – during his "Eastern voyage".

The signing of the Trade Agreement between the two countries on 2 April 1966 became the milestone in building ties between the two countries. The diplomatic relations were established on 1 June 1968.

In the last fifty years we have managed to make a significant progress in many areas of our cooperation and build a solid contractual basis. It is hard to overestimate the contribution to these efforts made by the father-founder of Singapore, its first Prime-Minister Lee Kuan Yew. In most part, it was his political will that set the vector of the progressive development of the diverse bilateral cooperation for the decades to come. The first official visit of Lee Kuan Yew to our country in 1970 was a landmark event. 

Modern Singapore is Russia's important and promising partner in the Asia-Pacific region. Our relations are based on equal mutual respect and consideration of each other's interests. Significant impetus to their development was given by the negotiations between Prime-Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong and President of Russia Vladimir Putin that took place on the margins of the ASEAN-Russia summit in Sochi in 2016.

There is progress in inter-parliamentary exchanges. In April 2013, the Singapore Parliament Speaker Halimah Yacob visited Moscow. In March 2016, the Chair of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Valentina Matvienko made a successful official visit to Singapore. Legislators of the two countries fruitfully cooperate in international arenas, including in the framework of annual meetings of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the ASEAN Inter‑Parliamentary Assembly.

The consistent implementation of the agreements reached at the highest level helps enhance mutually beneficial cooperation in trade and economic, investment and humanitarian spheres. An important role here is played by the Intergovernmental Singapore-Russia High-Level Commission, whose 8th meeting took place last October.

We are glad to state that despite the difficult economic situation in the world the bilateral trade shows positive dynamics. In 2017, the mutual trade reached USD 4.4 billion, which means a 94% rise compared to 2016. Its further increase and optimization, as well as more intense exchanges of investments and technology, and the creation of a qualitatively new trade and investment environment in general, undoubtedly, will be facilitated by a free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and the Republic of Singapore.

We should invest our joint efforts in such promising areas as special economic zones, energy sector, transport, agro-industry, infrastructure development, and information-communication technology. We have successfully implemented a number of cooperation projects, including the Moglino industrial special economic zone in the Pskov region and the Innopolis Kazan innovative centre in Tatarstan. The investment plans are being realized: the Singapore consortium Changi Airports International participates in management of regional airports in Krasnodar, Gelendzhik, Anapa, Sochi and Vladivostok; the Olam International corporation – in developing livestock farming and dairy production in the Penza region. In their turn, such major Russian companies, as LUKOIL PJSC, Gazprom PJSC, VTB Capital investment bank, Kaspersky Lab JSC and Sportmaster LLC, successfully work in Singapore.

We support the interest of business circles of the two countries in making direct contacts. The annual Singapore-Russia Business Forum remains a demanded platform for dialogue of business community representatives. Together with Rostec State Corporation it supported the opening of the Center for Foreign Promotion of Russian High-Tech Companies in Singapore last year.

In the framework of the Singapore staff training programme over 200 Russian specialists and public employees received training during short‑term courses. We intend to increase the academic mobility and further develop direct contacts between education and scientific institutions of the two countries. The creation of a Russian cultural center together with a Russian Orthodox church in Singapore is to become an important step toward deepening the humanitarian cooperation.

Singapore and Russia share common or similar approaches to many issues on the global and regional agendas. We effectively cooperate within such multilateral mechanisms, as the UN, APEC, the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership, the ARF, the EAS and ASEM. For our part, we are ready for a much closer foreign political coordination, including with a view to creating in the Asia-Pacific region an equal and indivisible security architecture based on the principles of international law, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use of force or threat of force, and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States.

In the last fifty years we have managed to strengthen and multiply traditions of friendship, cooperation, mutual respect and trust. Today, life sets new ambitious targets to further develop bilateral ties and advance them to a higher level. I am convinced that our joint efforts are well enough to achieve impressive results for the benefit of our States, with a view to ensuring peace, security and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.

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