Singapore country brief

Bilateral relations

Australia and Singapore have a strong and vibrant relationship. Australia was the second country to recognise Singapore when it became an independent nation in 1965. In 2015, as Singapore celebrated 50 years of independence and Australia and Singapore celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations, our two countries committed to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) to frame our relationship. The CSP encompasses all aspects of our relationship including trade, defence, science and innovation, education and arts.

Our Prime Ministers meet annually — the Prime Minister met Prime Minister Lee at the East Asia Summit in Singapore in November 2018. Prime Minister Lee visited Sydney in March 2018 and held talks with former prime minister Turnbull in addition to attending the ASEAN Australia Special Summit. Former prime minister Turnbull visited Singapore in June 2017 and gave the key note address at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Prime Minister Lee also visited Australia in October 2016 and met the then prime minister, senior cabinet ministers and the Governor General. These visits demonstrate practical implementation of the CSP.

Singaporean and Australian cabinet ministers meet regularly — either during bilateral visits to each country or during regional and multilateral meetings. The Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee (SAJMC) is a biennial high-level conference of Australian and Singaporean Ministers who meet to discuss bilateral trade, defence and security issues. The eleventh SAJMC was held in Singapore on 29 March 2019 and included Foreign, Defence and Trade Ministers from Australia and Singapore.

Trade and investment

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was signed in 2003. The CSP provided impetus to modernise SAFTA and the revised Agreement entered into force on 1 December 2017. It is a comprehensive update, with new market access underpinned by new rules providing greater certainty for exporters of goods, services and investment.

For more information on how SAFTA is benefiting Australian businesses and organisations see the following case studies:

Trade and business ties between Australia and Singapore are strong. Singapore is Australia's largest trade and investment partner in ASEAN and our eighth largest trading partner overall.

Defence and security

Australia and Singapore have a strong defence relationship. We hold joint military exercises and our defence forces have personnel exchanges and policy dialogues. A major feature of the relationship is the access to Australian training areas that Australia grants to the Singapore Armed Services. In 2016, Australia and Singapore agreed to enhance and expand training opportunities for Singapore Armed Forces personnel in Australia and signed an MOU to cover this. In addition, Australia and Singapore have signed a range of other MOUs to enhance cooperation including on personnel exchanges, military intelligence cooperation and defence science and technology. In August 2017, we signed a treaty to enable Singapore Air Force training at RAAF Base Pearce. Australia and Singapore are both members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), which is a joint defence arrangement between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Our police forces cooperate closely and have signed MOUs on police collaboration to combat transnational crime and also to combat transnational drug crime.

Innovation and science

Both Singapore and Australia recognise the importance of innovation to create modern and dynamic economies. Singapore is a world leader in building a supportive, flexible environment for emerging businesses and Australia has a world-class research system and outward-looking creative, businesses that are ready to collaborate internationally. In 2016 we held the first Australia-Singapore Joint Strategic Dialogue on Innovation and Science and signed an MOU on collaboration in innovation and science [PDF]. Australia has located one of its five start-up ‘landing-pads’ in Singapore to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. This initiative will support Australian companies to take advantage of Singapore’s status as an emerging tech hub, as well as gaining access to the wider ASEAN market.

People to people links

People to people links between Australia and Singapore are strong, encompassing education, tourism and, arts and culture. The Singapore community in Australia stands at over 70,000 people, including more than 8,000 Singaporean students. More than 2,100 Australian students have studied and undertaken internships in Singapore under the New Colombo Plan (2014–2019). Singapore and Australia are complementary tourism markets and enjoy close commercial links. Singapore is Australia's fifth largest inbound tourism market and seventh largest by expenditure. In the year ending September 2017 there were 433,600 short-term arrivals from Singapore. During the same period Singaporean visitors to Australia spent $1.5 billion. Our two countries hold regular tourism talks and have signed an MOU to establish a framework for collaboration on research, data-sharing, and market insights. Australia and Singapore are committed to cultural activities that further develop our people-to-people links. The Australia Singapore Arts Group — a team of arts and culture leaders from both nations — provides a focus for activity and advice and recommendations to support and strengthen arts and cultural engagement between our countries. We signed an MOU on cooperation in the field of Arts and Culture in 2015. Singapore and Australia signed an MOU on Cooperation in Sport in September 2017 to further our cooperation on sport and sports administration.

Last Updated: 10 December 2019