The agreement was signed between Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu at the Prime Minister’s Office in the capital Ankara. Mr Lee arrived in Ankara on Monday evening (Oct 13), following his visit to Istanbul. This is Mr Lee’s first official visit to Turkey.
The strategic partnership agreement will pave the way for deeper cooperation on several fronts. They include political exchanges, defence, trade and investment, aviation, cultural, science, counter-terrorism as well as research cooperation, amongst others.
Under the agreement, Singapore and Turkey are committed to sustaining the momentum of high level visits. On economic cooperation, the two sides agreed to work towards an early conclusion of the Turkey-Singapore Free Trade Agreement to further grow trade and investment ties.
The two countries will also enhance existing areas of partnership and identify new areas of cooperation. These include promoting Turkey and Singapore as complementary gateways into Europe and Asia to spur trade and investment flows, and encouraging greater cooperation in tourism and healthcare.
Singapore will also appoint a resident-ambassador to the Turkish capital next year. Turkey is the fourth country to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Singapore, following the United States, France and Vietnam. And similar agreement has also been planned with Australia and India next year.
Heavy fighting continues in the town of Kobane on Syria’s border with Turkey, as Kurdish fighters battle militants from the Islamic State (IS). In recent weeks, a US-led coalition has also mounted air strikes on IS targets in Kobane. Not surprisingly, there are concerns about how this will affect investors’ confidence.
Responding to questions about investment sentiment in Turkey amid chaos in the Middle East, Mr Lee gave a vote of confidence to doing business in Turkey. Looking beyond the immediate issues and considering the long-term trajectory and its potential, Mr Lee said Singapore sees Turkey as a country of opportunities.
Mr Lee said: “You have to be mindful of the immediate issues of course, at the same time you have to be able to look beyond the immediate issues to consider what the long-term trajectory is, whether the governments are stable, whether there is ability to maintain a strategic direction for a long period of time and deliver results beyond just reacting to events, and from that of view, Singapore sees Turkey as a country of opportunity.”
Mr Lee recalled that Singapore had similar experiences in the early years after independence – where there were tensions and conflicts in Southeast Asia. “We needed to develop Singapore and we decided that the way to do it was to make friends with our neighbours, but at the same time we establish in the middle of the Third World, a place, a city, a country with First World standards – our government, our administration, our services, infrastructure – and we give investors confidence to come and to invest and to help us develop and grow and take off.
“We were able, on that basis, to welcome in multinationals from America, Japan, Europe – Hewlett Packard, Exxon, Shell – they came to Singapore and they invested, and we took off and grew and the region prospered in time, and we integrated the region at the same time. When you ask are there problems in the region around Turkey, the answer is ‘Yes’. Is that a veto which caused us to not look at the opportunities which are there? I think we should look at our history and we will know the answer.”
On his part, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu assured investors that Turkey has political stability and a sound economic and financial structure. He also invited Singapore as a special guest at next year’s G20 meeting which Turkey will chair.
Singapore and Turkey also signed a letter of intent between their agriculture agencies to develop relations further. In addition, the Turkish Education Foundation, or TEV, has signed an agreement with ASTAR* to extend the TEV-SINGA scholarship programme.
Mr Lee also called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Cankaya Palace on Tuesday.