WASHINGTON: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said bilateral relations between Singapore and the United States are very good and the depth of engagement is matched only by very few countries in the world.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his four-day working visit to the United States, he also said Singapore enjoys strong credibility and reputation in the United States.
As US President Barack Obama puts it -- the relationship between Singapore and the US is extraordinary. Mr Obama said this when PM Lee met him at the White House on Tuesday.
PM Lee said it was not easy for bilateral ties to get to where they are now, and what have helped to boost Singapore-US relations are broad cooperation and similarities between the two countries.
"There is a fundamental alignment of our interest between Singapore and the US, we want an Asia which is stable, which is prospering, where America plays a constructive role and where Singapore has good relations with America and the region," said PM Lee.
"On that basis, there's a lot which we can do together, and a lot of mutual comfort and confidence that we are on the same wavelength. It is important for us to share views, perspectives, exchange our different perceptions of how things are going and what we can do better."
PM Lee added that the objective of his visit is to further bilateral ties and to encourage the US to continue to make positive contributions in the Asia Pacific.
One aspect of this multi-faceted relationship between Singapore and the US is in the area of business and investment. Business leaders in the US want to find out how Singapore is transforming its economy and the potential impact on their future investments.
PM Lee said Singapore's economy is in transition and not where it was before -- business costs are going to go up as wages rise and growth moderates. He added that American corporates will be watching how Singapore changes in the long-term.
However, their confidence in Singapore is high.
PM Lee said: "They see Singapore as a place where the government is rational, sober, competent to get things done and able to see the businesses' perspective -- if there is any issues, we can talk about it and resolve it in an mature sort of way, so I think we are at a very good level.
"Some of the issues will be longer term concerns, whether we will be able to maintain this and deliver the way we have delivered over the last 30 to 40 years. That is a very valuable advantage which we have. And I think our reputation is another very valuable advantage which we must not give up."
Other concerns raised by businessmen in the US include rising rentals and labour shortages in Singapore.
PM Lee was also asked about what Singapore is doing about income inequality -- an issue that is also vexing the Americans. He said there is no easy solution, and Singapore is making improvements through education, housing, social spending and tax policy. - CNA/ac
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