Singapore and Brunei Darussalam have been close friends for more than half a century. Our special relationship is underpinned by our shared strategic challenges, wide-ranging cooperation and strong personal ties at all levels. Singapore strongly supports Brunei Darussalam’s chairmanship of ASEAN during 2013. ASEAN is important to both Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, its two smallest members. Singapore has been a founder member of ASEAN since 1967. Brunei Darussalam joined shortly after independence in 1984. ASEAN has helped to maintain peace and stability in South-east Asia, which has supported regional growth and prosperity.
ASEAN gives all 10 member states a bigger voice on the international stage and provides an effective platform for external powers to engage with Southeast Asia and one another. ASEAN is now at a critical juncture. The global environment remains challenging. Our goal of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 is only two years away. We must redouble our efforts to enhance regional integration and implement the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity. We should also conclude a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership quickly. Regional issues like territorial disputes require a response from ASEAN that is evenhanded, forward-looking and promotes their peaceful resolution in accordance with international law.
I look forward to His Majesty the Sultan’s chairmanship of ASEAN during this important period. In his November 2012 address commemorating Brunei Darussalam’s assumption of the ASEAN chair, His Majesty pledged to encourage consensus without compromising the national interests of member countries and partners. Such careful diplomacy is vital to ASEAN’s progress and cohesion. Brunei Darussalam’s chosen theme of “Our People, Our Future Together” also underscores our shared goal of uplifting our peoples’ lives and securing a brighter future through regional integration. Singapore assures Brunei Darussalam of its fullest support, and stands ready to assist wherever needed. Besides working together to advance our common interests in ASEAN and other international fora, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam also enjoy strong bilateral ties, including in areas such as education, economics, defence, finance and social and cultural matters.
Defence cooperation is an especially important pillar of our partnership. We deeply appreciate the generosity of His Majesty and the kind hospitality of the people of Brunei Darussalam, allowing the Singapore Armed Forces to train in Brunei Darussalam.
Generations of Singaporean soldiers will never forget their training there and the warm welcome of the Bruneian people. The Currency Interchangeability Agreement (CIA) is another longstanding and unique arrangement between Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. It allows our currencies to be used as customary tender in both countries. The CIA has facilitated trade, investment and tourism, and is a symbol of the friendship and trust between our countries. We celebrated the 45th anniversary of the CIA in 2012 and launched a new dialogue between our respective monetary authorities to enhance this partnership.
I always enjoy visiting Brunei Darussalam. On my most recent visit in October 2012, I was reminded anew of the warmth and closeness of our relationship. I appreciated spending time with His Majesty and members of the royal family, including a brisk walk and breakfast at Tasek Lama. His Majesty and I discussed ways to strengthen our ties and agreed to enhance our education links and promote youth exchanges. These will sustain our relations into the next generation. In an uncertain and rapidly changing world, the depth and strength of SingaporeBrunei Darussalam relations provide a steady anchor to both partners. Singapore greatly values this special friendship. I look forward to my upcoming visits to Brunei Darussalam for the ASEAN and related summits this year, and cooperating closely with His Majesty as we take our relationship forward.
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