SPEECH BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN AT THE STATE DINNER HOSTED BY PRESIDENT FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE AT THE ÉLYSÉE PALACE, PARIS ON 18 MAY 2015
Your Excellency Mr François Hollande
President of the French Republic
Your Excellency Mr Gérard Larcher
President of the Senate
Your Excellency Mr Manuel Valls
Prime Minister of the French Republic
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honoured to have been invited by President Hollande to make the first ever State Visit to France by a Singapore President. On behalf of my wife and the Singapore delegation, I would like to thank you, Mr President, for hosting us to dinner in these historic and elegant surroundings and for the thoughtful arrangements made in connection with our visit.
France and Singapore are different in our history, geography and socio-cultural context. Yet, despite the differences, we have built up a solid partnership over the last 50 years since diplomatic relations were established. We work closely for mutual benefit in many areas including business, education, scientific research and defence, to name a few.
Singapore is the largest export destination for France in Southeast Asia and its third largest in Asia. Among EU member states, France is Singapore’s third largest trading partner, and fifth largest investor. More than 1,400 French companies are registered in Singapore. Singapore companies are also well-established in France, including Singapore Airlines, the first airline to purchase the Airbus A380, and the Ascott Group, which owns and manages the Citadines hotels.
Prestigious French institutions like INSEAD and ESSEC have established campuses in Singapore, and Singapore universities and research institutes enjoy good collaboration with their French counterparts.
In defence, French-made platforms including AMX-13 tanks, Superpuma helicopters and frigates have served Singapore’s defence needs well. The presence of a detachment of Singapore Air Force servicemen at Cazaux Air Base near Bordeaux since 1998 for Advanced Jet Training demonstrates the strength of our defence cooperation. I visited the Air Base in 1998 when I was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and look forward to visiting the Air Base again later this week.
To underscore the depth and breadth of our bilateral relationship, France and Singapore agreed to elevate relations to a Strategic Partnership in October 2012. It was Singapore’s second Strategic Partnership after the one we signed with the US. This morning, President Hollande and I witnessed the signing of several agreements that will deepen our partnership and push bilateral cooperation into exciting new areas, such as space technology, cyber-security, renewable energy and nuclear safety.
Cultural cooperation between Singapore and France is also growing from strength to strength. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relations, events showcasing Singapore culture have been held in cities around France under the banner of the “Singapore in France” Festival. Yesterday, my wife and I enjoyed our visit to one of these events - the Secret Archipelago Exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo. In Singapore, the French Embassy launched Voilah!, a two-month long celebration of French cuisine, culture and sports.
Ladies and Gentlemen
As Singapore commemorates its Golden Jubilee, we also pay tribute to the Frenchmen, who made important contributions to Singapore’s early development. I wish to cite just a few:
Reverend Father Jean-Marie Beurel was a French Catholic missionary who in 1852 established St Joseph’s Institution, Singapore’s oldest Catholic school. I am proud to be an alumnus of that institution, which continues to educate Singapore’s youth.
Pierre-Médard Daird and Alfred Duvaucel were French naturalists, who came to Singapore with Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819. They helped catalogue Singapore’s diverse flora and fauna, and contributed to the understanding and conservation of the rich biodiversity of our island.
Alfred Clouët was a pioneer entrepreneur who started a cannery selling tinned sardines in Singapore back in 1892. His “Ayam Brand” products are sold all over the world, including here in France.
We owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneers, whose legacies live on. Today, more than 15,000 French citizens have made Singapore their home, one of the largest French communities in Asia. They add to the diversity and vibrancy of Singapore. Singaporeans too, have made France their home and contribute to French business, science, education and the creative arts. I am pleased to see many of them here this evening.
As Singapore embarks on our next fifty years as a nation, it is my sincere hope that the partnership and ties of friendship between our two countries and peoples will continue to flourish and endure.
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I now ask you to rise and join me in a toast to the French Republic, to the President and to the people of France.