TL;DR – We are a little red dot that punches WAY above our weight.
If you go to USA, I bet many, if not most, Americans haven’t heard of Singapore. And amongst those who have heard of Singapore, majority may not know where Singapore really is. Some may even think that we are part of China.
Yet, the administration of President Trump think Singapore is important enough as a country to welcome our Prime Minister to the White House for an official meeting in the Oval Office and a working lunch.
Why? Why should USA bother with a little red dot like Singapore?
Here are three reasons:
1. We can create 70,000 jobs in USA
Singapore’s national carrier, SIA, is world-renowned and well regarded internationally. Even amidst stiff competition, it’s still able to consistently remain profitable, something that not all airlines can do. And because SIA is well managed, it’s able to expand its fleet.
During his visit to USA, PM Lee and President Trump witnessed the signing of a deal where SIA will buy 39 new aircraft from Boeing for US$13.8 billion.
That deal will create 70,000 jobs in USA. To put that number into perspective, the US economy adds about 172,000 jobs per month. So the SIA deal alone would account for about 40% of one month of jobs growth in the US economy.
That is quite significant.
2. Singapore’s military aids US efforts
Singapore deployed its Texas-based Chinook helicopters for relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey. We also extended help after the USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker off Singapore in late August. Lastly, our SAF also deploy assets and personnel to the global coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group. Singapore will continue to contribute a KC-135R tanker aircraft, an Imagery Analysis Team and a medical team for an additional year.
3. Singapore is 2nd largest Asian investor in US
At the end of 2016, the foreign direct investment from Singapore reached a total of US$73.6 billion. That makes Singapore the second largest Asian investor in the US. Singaporean companies have invested successfully in the US. They run the gamut from technology, retail, banking, hospitality, logistics, and F&B.
Punching above our weight
We should be proud that Singapore, little red dot that we are, has the ability to make a global superpower like US take us seriously. It’s the fruit of labour of all Singaporeans, not just the government. And it’s not something that we should take for granted.
If we lose our economic power, if we stop being exceptional in various areas, then there’s no reason for any of the big powers in the world to take us seriously.
And diplomacy will only get trickier.
The relationship between China and US is getting more complicated. As it is, there are some people in China who are criticising PM Lee for visiting US. They call PM Lee two-faced for visiting US so soon after visiting China. It reminds us that we need to remain principled in our relations with the major world powers, advancing our mutual interests.
And, most importantly, we Singaporeans need to stay united.