Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s first official visit to the White House, since President of the United States of America (POTUS) Donald Trump took office, appears to have been a resounding success.
The two world leaders first met face-to-face in July this year at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hamburg, Germany.
President Trump and PM Lee reaffirmed the relationship between the US and Singapore as they met again yesterday. The leaders first exchanged pleasantries in front of the media, where the POTUS claimed that the US-Singapore relationship has “never been closer than now” and “won’t ever be stronger.”
After exchanging pleasantries, the world leaders observed a contract signing between Singapore Airlines and Boeing over a US$13.8 billion deal for the purchase of 39 aircrafts. They proceeded to the Rose Garden later for a joint press conference.
At the conference, President Trump lavished praises on Singapore and highlighted the strategic partnership the US and Singapore have shared over the years.
PM Lee also reaffirmed Singapore’s relationship with the US and urged the POTUS to develop a stable relationship with China, especially in view of the rising North Korea nuclear threat.
The full transcript of the press meet shows that the POTUS went off-script ten times, while PM Lee went off-script 5 times.
Read the full transcript here, with the remarks made off-script highlighted:
President Trump: Thank you very much. Please sit. I’m honuored to welcome Prime Minister Lee of Singapore to the White House today. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.
PM Lee: Thank you, Mr. President.
President Trump: I want to thank you for visiting us, and your entire group of very, very talented people that we’re dealing with. Our friendship has never been stronger than it is right now.
Singapore is one of our closest strategic partners in Asia. The United States is proud of the deep and enduring partnership we have built since Singapore gained its independence more than half-a-century ago.
Singapore’s rapid development from a poor island nation to an economic powerhouse, under the leadership of the Prime Minister’s great father — he was a great man; he really was a great man — has been one of the incredible economic and political achievements of the past 50 years.
Singapore’s strong commitment to the rule of law, to international [intellectual] property protections, and to the principles of fair and reciprocal — one of my favorite words when it comes to trade — has made the country a magnet for business. Today, over 4,000 American companies are operating in Singapore, and we have a very large trading relationship with Singapore.
Earlier today, the Prime Minister and I witnessed a contract signing between Singapore Airlines — a great airline — and Boeing worth more than $13.8 billion. I want to thank the Singaporean people for their faith in the American engineering and American workers. And our American workers deliver the best product, by far. Our robust partnership extends far beyond economic cooperation and trade.
Mr. Prime Minister, as your father rightly noted, The development of the economy is very important, but equally important is the development of the nature of our society. So true.
The United States and Singapore share a profound belief in a society built on a foundation of law. A nation ruled by law provides the greatest security for the rights of citizens and the best path to shared and lasting prosperity. Both the United States and Singapore understand the unmatched power of private enterprise to uplift the human condition. These values have made our societies stronger, sustained our partnership through the Cold War, and laid a critical foundation for our lasting relationship today.
Our common values and interests have led to a vital security relationship. Throughout Southeast Asia, the United States and Singapore are currently working to enhance the capacity of law enforcement, fight terrorism, and bolster cyber defenses. Our two nations also share an unwavering commitment to countering the North Korean threat and promoting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Singapore was the first Southeast Asian nation to join the coalition to defeat ISIS. That was very far thinking. You were there before most. More than 1,000 of its military personnel train here in the United States every single year.
When Hurricane Harvey struck our Gulf Coast in late August, Singapore deployed its own helicopters to help transport personnel and critical resources to areas in need. And the Prime Minister told me that and called me, and made that request himself. It was a great help, and we want to thank you very much — the use of your helicopters.
When the American Navy destroyer, the USS John McCain, suffered a collision at the sea, Singapore came to our immediate assistance. On behalf of all Americans, I want to thank the Prime Minister and the people of Singapore for their support, which has been tremendous, and for their friendship.
In a few weeks, I will attend the US-ASEAN Summit in the Philippines, where we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of US-ASEAN relations. I look forward to continuing our discussions at this years summit and to seeing the great things Singapore will accomplish as ASEAN chair in 2018. In other words, this great gathering will take place in Singapore in 2018.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your continuing partnership and leadership. The US-Singapore relationship has made both of our people far more prosperous and secure, and our values have made us longstanding friends. We are fortunate to have such a wonderful and loyal partner. Thank you very much.
PM Lee: Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to thank President Trump for his very warm hospitality. I’m very happy to visit him in Washington following our first meeting, which was at the G20 Summit in Hamburg in July.
We had a wide-ranging exchange in the Oval Office and then over lunch. We reaffirmed the robust and enduring partnership between Singapore and the United States over the last 51 years. It’s a deep and wide relationship with substantial cooperation in economic, defense, and security spheres. And we also discussed what more we could do to take it forward.
On the economic front, the US is an important partner for many countries in Asia, just as Asia is an important economic partner for the United States.
Singapore is a small country — we’re just 5.5 million — but we have sizable investments and trade with the US, and these continue to grow. For example, we are the second largest Asian investor in the US, with more than 70 billion US dollars in stock investments, and our total trade in goods and services amounted to more than $68 billion last year.
The US has consistently run a substantial trade surplus with Singapore. Last year, it stood at $18 billion. In other words, America exported $43 billion of goods and services to Singapore. And on a per capita basis, we must be one of the highest-buying American customers in the world — $7,500 worth of American goods and services yearly: iPhones, pharmaceutical products, tires, golf clubs, financial and consultancy services. I mean the sticks, not the associations. (Laughter.)
And I discovered recently, looking at my sports shoes, at my New Balance shoes, which are very good — are made in the US, probably in New England.
And of course, we buy Boeing jets. President Trump and I just witnessed a signing between Singapore Airlines and Boeing for SIA to purchase 39 Boeing aircraft worth 13.8 billion US dollars. It’s a win-win for both sides. It will further modernise SIA’s fleet and will also support many American jobs.
Our defence ties are very strong. Singapore supports a military presence in Asia. Since 1990, we have hosted USAF and Navy aircraft and ships on rotational deployments. We thank the US for hosting more than 1,000 Singapore military personnel each year in training detachments in the United States.
We have forces at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix and in Marana, also in Arizona; at Mountain Home Air Base in Idaho; at Grand Prairie in Texas; and in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where I spent three months many years ago.
In fact, our Chinooks and military personnel in Grand Prairie were deployed to assist in the Hurricane Harvey disaster relief operations, and we are glad to have been of some help to our very gracious hosts.
We have a close partnership, too, on security cooperation, including transnational security, terrorism, and cybersecurity. Singapore has lent early and consistent support to the defeat-ISIS coalition. We were one of the first countries to participate and are still the only Asian country to have contributed both military assets and personnel. And as I told President Trump when we met, Singapore will extend our existing deployment to the operation into 2018 for an additional year.
President Trump and I naturally discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula. We strongly oppose the nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, as it affects the peace and stability of the region.
And like the US, we condemn the DPRK’s dangerous provocations. These pose a serious threat to regional and international peace and stability.
I shared with President Trump what Singapore has done to pressure and to isolate the DPRK, going beyond U.N. Security Council resolutions. But there is no quick and easy solution. Pressure is necessary but so is dialogue. The US will need to work with others, including China, South Korea, and Japan, and Russia to resolve the issue.
President Trump will be visiting China in a few weeks’ time as part of his first visit to Asia. Singapore, like many other countries, watched your relations with China very closely. It’s the most important bilateral relationship in the world.
China is the US’s third largest export market for both goods and services; for agricultural exports, it’s the second largest. They buy soybeans, grains, and cotton, as well as farming machinery. And I am quite sure that as their incomes go up, they will buy more and more good American beef.
I express my hope that the US will be able to maintain a stable and constructive relationship with China, engaging each other at the highest levels, building trust, establishing institutional mechanisms.
Good US-China relations will benefit the region and the world. They will enable countries in the Asia Pacific, including America and China themselves, to enjoy regional stability, peace, and prosperity.
Finally, I look forward to seeing President Trump again in Vietnam and the Philippines next month to attend the APEC and ASEAN and East Asia Summit meetings.
His presence in Asia will mean a lot to America’s many friends and allies in the region, and it will open doors and develop markets for US exporters and investors.
Although the President is not visiting Singapore this time around, I have invited him to visit Singapore at the earliest opportunity, and I’m very glad that he has accepted.
Singapore will be the ASEAN chair next year, and we hope to strengthen our ties — ASEAN’s ties — with the United States and further ASEAN-US cooperation.
Thank you very much.
President Trump: Thank you very much, everybody.