France and Singapore "special partners", says President

Singapore – Bilateral relations – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at the state dinner held in his honour (excerpts)

Singapore, 27 March 2017


France regards Singapore not only as an economic partner but also, and above all, a friend. This solid relationship is based on a long history. In 1819 two French naturalists, Pierre Medard-Diard and Alfred Duvaucel, accompanied Sir [Stamford] Raffles on his journey to Singapore, beginning a long series of scientific expeditions.

Then, at the time of Singapore’s proclamation of independence, France was one of the first countries in the world to recognize your state. And together we celebrated the 50th anniversary of that recognition of independence.

Lee Kuan Yew visited President Pompidou in 1970 and – since he had a prophetic side – he wanted France to support Singapore in its development. But let’s admit it, our relations have broadly surpassed the initial goal. And may I pay tribute here before you to the memory of the man who founded the nation of Singapore, [the anniversary of] whose passing you commemorated a few days ago. Lee Kuan Yew was the visionary architect of your success, and under his aegis the city state was able to face up to many challenges with determination, tenacity and skill, three values which also apply well beyond Singapore.

This dynamism is reflected in our trade, which is constantly growing, meaning Singapore accounts for our third-largest trade surplus in the world. And we don’t have so much [of a trade surplus] that we can’t give it the welcome it deserves. More than 6,000 businesses have established links with Singapore, and 700 subsidiaries of French businesses and 330 French entrepreneurs have decided to settle here in your country.

They employ more than 40,000 people, and you [President Tony Tan] have paid tribute to a number of those companies, in particular the joint venture CMA CGM-PSA, which has made one of the largest French investments in Singapore.

The relationship uniting our two countries is also political, and it’s based on the high level of trust we’ve been able to establish, and on very broadly similar views at diplomatic level.

Indeed, in many strategic sectors – and particularly defence – our two countries have become special partners. Next year we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the creation of the training school for Singaporean fighter pilots at the Cazaux air base, where you yourself went during your state visit in 2015.

I want to confirm to you that those pilots are especially well appreciated, not only at the Cazaux site in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region but also by their military colleagues, who see them as very high-class and skilled pilots. And they enable us to give our defence relations a human dimension.

Mr President, we’re aware of the role Singapore played in securing the Paris Agreement on the climate, because for a long time you’ve been aware that there are investments to make, precautions to take, and that the environment must be put at the heart of your public policies. And in the limited space you have, you’ve been capable of giving nature a place. You’ve also planned a carbon tax, which can only encourage innovative and intelligent behaviour with a view to protecting our environment.

France and Singapore have also made a choice, namely scientific excellence. We have 130 researchers working here and a large number of French institutions making their contribution to projects linked to Smart Nation.

I’m delighted that major French higher education institutions – ESSEC, INSEAD, EDHEC, Sorbonne Universités and the Grenoble Graduate School of Business – have decided to establish bases in Singapore or develop partnerships, because I want our academic exchanges to prosper; and Singapore is the third-largest partner of the CNRS [French National Centre for Scientific Research]. And earlier I visited the Singaporean equivalent of the CNRS and they confirmed to me how close their relations are. And we’re going to make innovation the theme of the France-Singapore year of reciprocal events.

Finally, there’s culture: it links us together, and we also have an agreement that we’re going to improve further, which is enabling us to organize reciprocal events that are enlivening our cultural scene and enjoying great success. (…)./.

Published on 30/03/2017

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