Speech by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the State Banquet hosted by New Zealand Governor-General His Excellency Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, on 27 October 2015 at the Government House, Wellington
Your Excellency Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae
Lady Janine Mateparae
Acting Prime Minister The Honourable Bill English
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to thank Sir Jerry for his kind words and warm hospitality. My wife and I were pleased to welcome Sir Jerry and Lady Janine to Singapore in July, and we are delighted to make this reciprocal State Visit.
My last official visit to New Zealand was over 10 years ago, and it gives me great pleasure to be back in this beautiful country which is blessed with warm and welcoming people, stunning scenery, and rich agricultural land. New Zealand is consistently ranked amongst the most liveable places in the world and you have embraced different peoples and cultures who have come to your shores to live, study and work.
Your enterprising and intrepid spirit, and strong political leadership, has allowed your country to punch above its weight in commerce and diplomacy. With a sound macroeconomic framework and prudent fiscal policies, which generated a budget surplus for the fiscal year 2014, New Zealand navigated the global financial crisis to emerge as one of the fastest growing OECD economies in recent years.
Our two countries share the common belief in the benefits of trade liberalisation.
New Zealand has concluded many Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Singapore’s first bilateral FTA was signed with New Zealand in 2000. We were both parties of the four-member Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TSEP), which expanded to become the recently-concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) involving twelve Pacific Rim countries.
In the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), New Zealand has addressed issues of global security and highlighted the challenges faced by small states. The impressive support New Zealand garnered in last year’s UNSC election revealed both the quality of your diplomacy and the trust other countries have placed in you. Singapore is pleased to have supported your candidature. New Zealand also plays an important role in regional cooperation and stability. Both our countries share similar strategic perspectives and believe in an open regional architecture. Singapore values New Zealand’s 40-year engagement of ASEAN and looks forward to the elevation of this partnership to the strategic level.
This year marks the 50th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and New Zealand. Our ties have grown significantly over the years. Our economic relations are healthy. Singapore is among New Zealand’s top 10 trading partners and investors. Our defence relations are strong. Singapore appreciates New Zealand’s provision of military training facilities in Waiouru. As Chief of Defence Force, Sir Jerry played an important role in advancing bilateral defence relations, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (Military) by the Singapore Government.
Singapore and New Zealand share strong people-to-people links. New Zealanders in Singapore have contributed to the fabric of our cosmopolitan city-state. I am sure that many Singaporeans will join their New Zealand friends to cheer on the All Blacks during the Rugby World Cup finals this Saturday. Many Singaporeans live and study in New Zealand. Some have found ways to return New Zealand’s generosity in hosting them. One such Singaporean is Dr William Tan - neuroscientist, Paralympic athlete and cancer-survivor. Dr Tan, who is paralysed from the waist down due to polio contracted in his childhood, completed his PhD in Auckland. Last year, Dr Tan hand-cycled 500km from London to Paris to raise funds for cancer research at the University of Auckland, an institution to which he feels deep gratitude. Sir Jerry would have met Dr Tan in Singapore in July this year, where Dr Tan was presented the New Zealand-ASEAN 40th anniversary award.
As close friends, Singapore and New Zealand have supported each other through times of national grief. Singapore was touched by New Zealand’s gestures to mourn the passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, such as the flying of flags at half-mast on public buildings, including where we are today in Government House. Singapore helped with rescue efforts in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in 2011. I look forward to visiting Christchurch tomorrow to see the progress in the Christchurch rebuild.
Your Excellency, I believe that small nations like Singapore and New Zealand can overcome their constraints through international collaboration. In this respect, both our countries have made good progress in expanding our bilateral cooperation in various sectors, including in R&D and biomedical sciences, where we have complementary strengths. Sir Jerry witnessed our joint-research in maternal health during his visit to Singapore.
As we continue to explore new areas of collaboration, I am confident that our partnership will deepen, our ties will strengthen and our friendship will flourish for many more years to come.