How big a deal is Obama hosting PM Lee for dinner?
US President Barack Obama (R) speaks with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (L) as they take part in a security in Asia-Pacific plenary session during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the Sunnylands estate on February 16, 2016 in Rancho Mirage, California. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan
The White House announced that US President Barack Obama will host PM Lee Hsien Loong for an official visit and a state dinner on the 2nd of August.
On a Facebook post, PM Lee said “Singapore has very good relations with the US. I look forward to the visit. It will mark the progress we have made, especially with this Administration. It will also be a chance to see how we can build on our friendship beyond the November US elections.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed that it will be a first official visit to the US by a Singapore Prime Minister since Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s official visit in 1985 and that “2016 is a landmark year for our bilateral relations, as Singapore and the US celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. PM Lee’s visit will affirm the close and long-standing relationship between our two countries as well as our regional partnership, which is underpinned by our shared strategic values and wide-ranging cooperation.”
To give you an idea of what this makan session at the White House means; President Obama has so far hosted the leaders of only four Asian countries – China, Japan, South Korea and India. All very large, very powerful and very wealthy countries. And PM Lee is representing the country sitting at the table with them.
White House state dinners are typically glitzy affairs and reserved only for the US’ strongest allies. It is considered the highest diplomatic honour the White House can give. These dinners are reported to cost anywhere from around US$200,000 (S$275,000) to over US$500,000.
Mr. Lee and Mr. Obama will be discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the Islamic State and as well as the Paris Climate agreement.
What they eat at the table, you won’t get to taste. But what they talk about will surely impact us individually in a big way.