Minister: Your Excellency, my good friend the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, Don Pramudwinai, distinguished guests, colleagues and gentlemen, let me on behalf of all the Singaporeans here, bid a very warm welcome to our friends from Thailand for the 13th Coordinating Meeting of the Thailand-Singapore Civil Service Exchange Program � CSEP for short. Don, I think we've already met about three or four times this year. It just shows you the intensity of our interactions between our two countries. Since its inception in 1998, the CSEP has become a very important platform for the civil service of both our states to maintain friendship, exchange ideas and share experiences.
I recall a fruitful visit to Bangkok last year in conjunction with the 12th CSEP and I remember witnessing progress made across 13 areas of cooperation including judicial, education, water management, health promotion and cultural cooperation. The theme for this year's CSEP is An Enduring Partnership for a New Age. I think this is very timely and apt. Enduring partnership because the Kingdom of Thailand and Singapore have had a longstanding relationship which in fact goes back before our own independence, and a new age because we are living in a new age, a digital revolution, a technological revolution that will disrupt so many aspects of our life. And both in Thailand and Singapore we need to prepare for this new age.
On the bilateral front, I would like to also take this opportunity to remember the contributions of the late King, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. I know he was deeply revered in Thailand, and that he devoted his entire life to uplifting the lives of Thai citizens. His late Majesty also contributed greatly to the enduring friendship between Thailand and Singapore, and I believe it is incumbent on all of us to carry on his good work by continuing to forge strong cooperation for the benefit of all our citizens. I'm confident that our bilateral relations will continue to flourish under the reign of His Majesty, King Maha Vajiralongkorn. I also remember that Thailand was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Singapore in 1965. The point is that we are built on a very strong foundation, and we need to keep growing these bilateral ties from strength to strength.
We celebrated the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relations in 2015, and these good relations have been underpinned by a strong momentum of exchanges at the highest political levels and also at the civil service levels. And that's why we are all here today. On the economic front, our ties are strong. Total bilateral trade was S$27.4 billion in 2016. We continue to be within the top 10 of our trading partners and the top 5 of our investors. And I'm pleased to note that both sides will also be holding the Singapore-Thailand Enhanced Economic Relationship (STEER) Ministerial Meeting this week to discuss further cooperation in agriculture and food, information and communications technology, investments, trade, tourism, air connectivity, and intellectual property.
I'm also glad to see that there are new areas of cooperation including potential areas of synergy between our own smart nation initiative and your Thailand 4.0 initiative. We hope to also seek cooperation in cyber security and ICT following the MOU that was signed in May 2016 and the launch of a STEM program. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. On the regional front, both Thailand and Singapore were founding members of ASEAN and both countries have always worked closely together to promote regional stability and integration. We continue to share strategic common interests. We believe in preserving ASEAN unity and centrality and we hope that we will be able to achieve a future of innovation, peace, stability, and progress for all our citizens.
In conclusion, this is an opportunity for us to learn from each other, to harness the synergies between our bureaucracies, and to position ourselves to meet future challenges. I wish all of you, therefore, a most fruitful and fulfilling meeting. Remember not only to compare notes, but also to make friends. And I've discovered that the messaging platform that's most popular in Thailand is Line. I think in Singapore it might be WhatsApp. We need to find a way to connect the two platforms. Thank you all very much.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore