Singapore and France partnership is a compact of shared values which represent the common vision of a world embracing openness, multilateralism, globalisation and the rule of law, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said on Sunday (26 Mar) in his speech during the state banquet hosted at the Istana in honour of French president Francois Hollande, who is on a two-day state visit to Singapore.
“At a time when the global political and economic environment is uncertain, many governments are facing pressures to turn inwards.”
“Against this backdrop, being able to work with reliable friends is more important than ever. France is such a friend of Singapore,” President Tony Tan stated.
“When Singapore was newly independent in 1965”, Dr Tan continued, “France was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Singapore.”
Dr Tan said, “France was Singapore’s second largest trading partner in the EU in 2016, and Singapore’s 6th largest investor from the EU. There are more than 1,800 French enterprises in Singapore, and some 15,000 French nationals make Singapore their second home.”
The Herald wrote that trade between the two countries is strong; last year the two country’s bilateral trade was valued at $11.4 billion (S$16 billion).
“The ties between our two countries are so close that it is not difficult to see France’s influence in Singapore. To get to work, many Singaporeans take Alstom MRT trains, or drive Peugeot or Renault cars. Not too long from now, they will also be able to participate in an electric car-sharing programme run by French transportation company, Bolloré,” Dr Tan said.
Dr Tan also acknowledged the strides made in the bilateral relationship between the two countries, “Most notable was the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership signed in 2012 during the official visit of then-Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to Singapore.”
“Since then, Singapore and France have deepened cooperation not only in traditional areas such as defence, trade and investment, education and culture, but also in emerging areas including space technology, renewable energies and nuclear safety,” Dr Tan noted.
In return Mr Hollande said that Singapore is not only an economic partner, but also a friendly country.
“In this geopolitical environment of isolation, nationalism and protectionism, we have to lead by example and make our bilateral partnership not only strong and dynamic, but to show the way for opening confidence in international trade,’’ Mr Hollande said.
In a first state visit by a sitting president of a European country, the French leader started his two-day visit to Singapore on Sunday. His trip reciprocates the state visit of Dr Tan to France in May 2015, which marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Dr Tan further said, “As 2017 marks the 5th anniversary of our Strategic Partnership, this State Visit is a fitting occasion to inject new impetus into our bilateral cooperation in innovation, a priority area of our respective national growth strategies.”
“I therefore welcome the Singapore-France Innovation Forum which will be held tomorrow morning, as well as the release of the Singapore-France Joint Declaration on Innovation, which will pave the way for greater collaborations in areas such as FinTech, digital engineering, smart cities planning, and health and biomedical sciences,” Dr Tan said.
He said that Singapore’s cooperation with France in defence, security and culture has also strengthened in recent years.
“Singapore deeply appreciates France’s strong support for the RSAF’s fighter pilot training in Cazaux, which will mark its 20th anniversary next year,” he acknowledged.
Dr Tan noted that the two countries have stepped up collaboration in areas such as counter-terrorism and cybersecurity. Cultural collaborations have also deepened since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cultural Cooperation in 2009.
France’s yearly Voilah! festival – a celebration of French cuisine and culture – has become an important highlight in Singapore’s cultural calendar. Singaporean artists are also increasingly making their presence felt in France. Dr Tan mentioned such an example is the ‘Cannot Be Bo(a)rdered’ Exhibition, a showcase of urban art from Singapore, which will be featured in the Urban Art Fair in Paris next month.
“The ratification of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement will reinforce the joint belief of Singapore and France that free and open trade will bring tangible benefits to our peoples,” Dr Tan said.
He also said that Singapore looks forward to France’s support for the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement which will strengthen air connections between the two regions, and signal the value both countries place on having a connected world rather than a fragmented one.
On Monday, Mr Hollande will be hosted to lunch by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. In his schedule Mr Hollande will also inaugurate the Singapore-France Innovation Forum, launch a joint venture between French container shipping firm CMA-CGM and PSA, and deliver the 40th Singapore Lecture on ‘France and Singapore, Strategic Partners in a Fast-Changing World’. He will also visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens where an orchid will be named in his honour.
After Singapore, Mr Hollande will visit Malaysia and Indonesia.