BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei: With technological disruption and changes in the global economy, Singapore and Brunei must continue to explore new areas of cooperation and strengthen existing ones, said Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean on Thursday (Oct 3).
Mr Teo was delivering a lecture at Brunei’s University of Technology titled Singapore-Brunei Relations in the Global Context, where he addressed around 200 students, staff members and government officials.
Education is one area the two sides can collaborate further on, said the minister. He said universities must evolve to become students’ “partners” in lifelong learning and support them in picking up new skills and upgrading themselves.
This will help them to adapt to changing demands and tackle new challenges, he said.
In 2015, Singapore launched SkillsFuture, a national movement to support continuous learning. Under this, adult Singaporeans can apply for classes and workshops accredited by SkillsFuture Singapore.
“This is the new paradigm which every country needs to strive for, for the future,” said Mr Teo.
“It will help all our citizens embrace and share the benefits of advances in technology throughout their lives,” he said, adding that Singapore is looking to strengthening collaboration in this area with Brunei universities.
Electronic payments and food security were also highlighted as potential areas for cooperation. On Wednesday, Singapore and Brunei announced that they will form a joint working group to drive agri-food and aquaculture cooperation.
The working group will report its progress to a joint ministerial panel which includes Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Brunei’s Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Ali Apong.
Both countries will also strengthen cooperation in existing areas such as defence and economy.
Currently, the Singapore Armed Forces conducts regular training in Temburong and both militaries have frequent bilateral exercises and visits.
But with the volatile geopolitical environment, Singapore and Brunei must further strengthen defence cooperation to safeguard each other’s security and ensure stability in the region, said Mr Teo.
With Brunei set to take over the ASEAN chairmanship in 2021, Mr Teo said Singapore looks forward to supporting the country in addressing issues of common concern.
One immediate area for cooperation is upholding free trade and economic integration, given the global trade issues that have emerged, he said.
Mr Teo also urged all members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to work towards concluding negotiations for the agreement expeditiously.
Negotiations for the trade agreement covering ASEAN and six other economies – China, India, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand – started in 2013, but progress has been slow.
If agreed to, RCEP will form the largest trading bloc in the world – accounting for a third of global GDP.
Mr Teo said in an uncertain and rapidly changing world, the depth and breadth of Singapore and Brunei’s close partnership will continue to be a pillar of strength for both sides.
“Singapore and Brunei have always shared a very special relationship, anchored by strong political and people-to-people ties; wide-ranging and substantive cooperation in many fields; and deep mutual trust developed over many decades.
“We should build on these strong foundations to take our cooperation further,” he said.