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Singapore to chair Asean in 2018

Foreign Affairs ministry says it will promote the Asean identity and create opportunities abroad for S'poreans

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In a statement on Monday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that the Republic's hosting of key meetings such as the Asean Summit and East Asia Summit would be an opportunity to showcase and advance the interests of Singapore and Asean to the world.

Singapore

SINGAPORE will chair the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) in 2018, the first time that it will helm the 10-member bloc since 2007.

In a statement on Monday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that the Republic's hosting of key meetings such as the Asean Summit and East Asia Summit would be an opportunity to showcase and advance the interests of Singapore and Asean to the world.

The statement, called an addendum, was issued in response to points made by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the opening of Parliament last Friday, during which he talked about the government's commitment to building a safe and secure Singapore.

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The 10 members of Asean are Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

Laos recently assumed the year-long chairmanship after a successful stint by Malaysia in 2015, which culminated in the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) on Dec 31; the Philippines will be the next host in 2017.

While Singapore's turn is still nearly two years away, Dr Balakrishnan said the country will make a "concerted effort" to promote Asean identity and awareness among Singaporeans through the mainstream and social media.

It will also take advantage of initiatives such as the annual Youth Model Asean Conference, which aims to educate and engage younger Singaporeans about the workings behind Asean.

"Asean remains a cornerstone of Singapore's foreign policy, and provides the necessary bedrock for a stable, peaceful and prosperous region," said Dr Balakrishnan, adding that Asean provided a platform for the country to engage key major powers at a regional level.

"Singapore will continue to work actively to enhance Asean integration and centrality in the evolving regional architecture, as well as deepen Asean's relations with its external partners," he said.

Creating overseas opportunities for Singaporeans is another of his ministry's priorities for the government's new five-year term.

He noted that regional initiatives such as the AEC, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade pacts would open up new trade and investment opportunities for Singapore companies in a broader economic hinterland.

He added that Singapore would continue to expand its political relations and economic space in new emerging markets in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and Turkey.

"We will promote Singapore as a major global and regional business hub for foreign companies seeking to expand to the region, while promoting Singapore's vibrancy through greater cultural and people-to-people linkages and public diplomacy," he said.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry was one of four ministries that released their addenda to the President's Address on Monday, the other three being Defence, Home Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office (National Security Coordination Secretariat).

Writing in his ministry's addendum, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam pointed out that safety and security are the cornerstones of Singapore's stability and economic development.

Among the many priorities in the coming years is the deepening of cooperation and partnerships with international organisations such as Interpol, Asean and the United Nations.

This is critical given the transnational nature of crime and security threats, said Mr Shanmugam, as this would help Singapore in its efforts to combat terrorism, the scourge of drugs and cybercrime, and to address emerging threats more effectively.

The rest of the ministries in Singapore will release their respective addenda throughout the week. Parliament will sit again on Monday as the House gets set to debate the President's Address for five days.

Also on the agenda is a debate on a motion for Workers' Party (WP) member Daniel Goh to take up the non-constituency MP (NCMP) seat vacated by Lee Li-Lian.

The motion was filed last Friday by party chief Low Thia Khiang and seconded by the other five elected MPs, said WP chairman Sylvia Lim on Monday.

Ms Lee, unsuccessful in retaining her Punggol East seat at last September's general election, was eligible for an NCMP post as she had the highest vote percentage among the losing opposition candidates.

However, she has repeatedly said that she would not be taking up the position. On Monday, she wrote on Facebook that her decision was made "after serious considerations".

"It was not taken lightly. Let's not lose focus on the larger national issues in Parliament and work together to better the lives of all Singaporeans in this country," she said.

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