PM Lee, Dr Mahathir reaffirm strong relations, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

PM Lee, Dr Mahathir reaffirm strong relations

This article is more than 12 months old

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, yesterday spoke of the strong ties between their two countries, at a lunch to welcome the Malaysian leader on his first official visit in his current stint as prime minister, to Singapore.

In his speech at the Istana event, PM Lee noted that while the two-day official visit is his first as Malaysia's seventh prime minister, Dr Mahathir is very familiar with Singapore.

PM Lee, speaking at the lunch, said they had a good meeting and discussed ways to deepen cooperation.

"Malaysia is Singapore's closest neighbour and vice versa. We are bound by geography and history. Our economies are extensively intertwined," PM Lee said.

Also, Singapore and Malaysia are each other's second-largest trading partners, and Singapore is Malaysia's second-largest foreign investor.

Said PM Lee: "When we met in May 2018, Dr Mahathir spoke fondly about his time in the college and his old classmates, whom he kept in touch with for many years, but had not seen for a while.

"So I am happy that NUS will confer an honorary Doctorate of Laws on Dr Mahathir tomorrow, and many of his old friends will be at the ceremony."

Dr Mahathir, in his speech, also underlined the close ties between both nations, saying they "are like twins in a way, except perhaps the elder twin is a little bit bigger than the younger twin and a bit older".

Citing Singapore's recent help, he said: "I wish to record here our appreciation for the help extended by Singapore during the present currency crisis we had recently.

"If there is any way we can return the hospitality, we will try to do so."

He added that the most important thing is to continue the good relations.

As would be the case between any two countries, there will be some differences and competition, he noted.

"But the competition is always healthy - it helps us to make every effort to win, and this really helps us to grow even faster."

Dr Mahathir, who will attend the opening of the Asean Summit today, also pointed out that together, Singapore and Malaysia can be effective in helping the region to grow.

Meanwhile, Singapore businesses will get greater access to the Chinese market and stronger protection for their investments under an upgraded free trade agreement inked with China yesterday.

Singapore will open up its air transport, courier and environmental sectors to Chinese companies that want to compete here, while allowing a third Chinese bank full bank privileges.