Remarks to the Press by Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Lee of Singapore
**Please see below for a correction to the transcript, marked with an asterisk.
3:45 P.M. SGT
PRIME MINISTER LEE: Ladies and gentlemen, is it my great pleasure to welcome Vice President Biden to Singapore.
I was -- met him last in the White House in April (inaudible) together with President Obama, and I’m delighted to reciprocate Vice President Biden’s very kind hospitality. I hope you enjoy the visit and I hope that Mrs. Biden likes the orchid that we made up.
Our relations with the U.S. are wide-ranging and in excellent shape. Many U.S. institutions, colleges like Yale University, Duke Medical School or Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute are partnering with Singapore universities. And American companies are here too in big numbers, like Pratt & Whitney, which the Vice President is visiting. And they have contributed much to our economy and they are continuing to invest and to upgrade their operations.
We are also pleased to have a very good security relationship and defense relationship with the U.S. And we’re hosting the first U.S. LCS littoral combat ship in Singapore, which arrived in April to conduct exercises together with navies in the region.
So in our discussions just now, the Vice President and I agreed to explore new partnerships in R&D, in culture and in education. We are (inaudible) very happy that the U.S. is engaged in the region, Asia Pacific, and particularly, of course, in Southeast Asia and ASEAN, our partners as well -- and on a global front, through security cooperation, trade, education, energy and so on.
Singapore is friends with America, also with India, Japan and China and the other major powers. And we would like to maintain our good relations with all of them. And we’ve always believed that the U.S. has a constructive role to play in the region, and the Vice President has played a significant role being responsible for these efforts in this administration, and especially in maintaining and strengthening (inaudible) between U.S. and China.
One of the manifestations of America’s engagement in the region is the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Singapore played a modest role getting this going because we were one of the founding members in the P4, together with Brunei, with Chile and New Zealand. And the TPP is built around the blueprints of the P4.
We support Japan’s participation in the TPP. And I met Prime Minister Abe earlier this morning. And we are very happy that with Japan’s and with the United States’ and the other countries’ support, the TPP is as strategically and needed-for step forward towards free trade in the Asia Pacific.
So we look forward to continuing our conversation with the United States and (inaudible) our cooperation. And I wish the Vice President a very successful visit, and I look forward to carrying on the conversation with him over dinner tonight.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you for your hospitality.
Let me begin by echoing comments that the Prime Minister said. The United States also is friends with India, China and Japan. We have a positive relationship with all and a strong strategic relationship with Japan.
I want to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for continuation of what was a wide-ranging and delightful conversation that we started in the United States. And we discussed many issues of interest to the United States and Singapore, and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the vast majority of the issues that we jointly face.
I’ve come to Singapore at the request of President Obama to underscore our commitment to our rebalance in the Asia Pacific, and particularly to Southeast Asia, and to our bilateral relationship with Singapore.
Ours is a growing partnership, and it’s also a partnership of growing purpose. Singapore sits equidistant from Beijing and New Delhi, at the center of the region’s east, west and north, south trade routes. Singapore’s port is the world’s largest trans-shipping hub. ASEAN now represents $2 trillion of economy, and 600 million people, and Singapore is its economic (inaudible).
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, as we discussed, there’s enormous pride -- there’s enormous promise in our economic cooperation for our two countries and I would respectfully suggest the entire region. It’s remarkable that Singapore, a country of 5 million people, now has a $50 billion trading relationship with the United States.* And that you are our 17th largest trading partner, ahead of Russia and other much larger countries.
Your economic success is testament to the people and the leaders of Singapore, and it is -- I have the great honor of being able to meet your father shortly, one of the most admired men in the world, one of the reasons why you are where you are -- not you personally, but your country.
And also Singapore is also -- as (inaudible) economic (inaudible) we share in 21st century: fewer barriers at and behind our borders; protections of intellectual property and rewards for innovation; rules governing congress that are transparent -- excuse me, governing commerce that are transparent and clearly defined; high standards and a new commitment to treat companies fairly whether they are foreign or domestic, state-owned or private.
These are the core ingredients of 21st century growth in our opinion, and they're major reasons why businesses flock to Singapore.
And I also (inaudible) to the Trans-Pacific Partnership our countries have been negotiating in Malaysia in these past few weeks. This agreement will connect Singapore and the United States with Pacific economies as diverse as Vietnam, Chile, New Zealand, Mexico and now Japan.
We welcome Japan negotiating this week, and now the 12 countries at the negotiating table account for 40 percent -- 40 percent -- of the world’s GDP. The TPP nations represent a core constituency for stronger, global economic rules of the road for the 21st century. That's at the core of what you’re about.
These -- this agreement is ambitious, and it should be. But it’s also -- the TPP, it’s not only ambitious, it’s doable. And we’re working hard with Singapore and others to get it done in 2013.
Prime Minister Lee and I also spoke about our regional security. We each expressed our concerns about rising tensions in the South China Sea. All the parties have a common interest in the freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution of territorial disputes. The United States urges all parties to reject coercion, intimidation, threats and the use of force. We encourage the ASEAN and China to quickly reach agreement on a code of conduct.
We were encouraged by the agreements that started discussions in the code of conduct, and we hope to see them follow through in the upcoming weeks.
We also discussed the need to deepen our counterproliferation, law enforcement cooperation to address emerging threat and maintain the momentum in our military-to-military relationship, which is strong and effective.
I look forward tomorrow to visiting the USS Fitzgerald and a littoral combat ship, the USS Freedom, which is evidence of the nature of that strong relationship.
The Freedom is currently rotationally deployed here in Singapore, a powerful symbol of our shared commitment to stability, security and freedom of navigation in (inaudible).
And finally we discussed (inaudible) greater rights that people across the region are seeking.
So let me then close by thanking the people of Singapore for their incredible hospitality. Mr. Prime Minister, never did I think in my wildest dreams that I would have an orchid named after me and my wife in Singapore. (Laughter.) That was beyond any expectation I ever had as a child or as an adult, but it’s truly a great honor. (Laughter.)
And so it’s a tremendous honor to be with you again, Mr. Prime Minister, and I thank you for this gesture and for the terrific discussion. Thank you.
3:55 P.M. SGT