Speech by President Tony Tan at the State Banquet hosted in honour of President of the Swiss Confederation Johann N. Schneider-Ammann at the Istana on 12 July 2016

Your Excellency Mr Johann Schneider-Ammann

President of the Swiss Confederation

Excellencies

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am deeply honoured to welcome President Schneider-Ammann and your distinguished delegation to Singapore. I am delighted to have this opportunity to reciprocate the warm hospitality extended to my delegation during my visit to Switzerland in May 2014.  This is the first State Visit to Singapore from Switzerland and comes at a significant moment in our bilateral relationship. Next year, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Switzerland. The Declaration of Enhanced Partnership that was signed in May 2014 has charted an ambitious roadmap to further strengthen our ties.

This State Visit also caps a series of high level visits by both Singapore and Switzerland. Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam visited Switzerland in May 2015 as well as in January 2016. Various Swiss Federal Councillors, including Didier Burkhalter, Doris Leuthard, and Guy Parmelin, have visited Singapore in the past year.  I am delighted to learn that the Mayor of Geneva Guillaume Barazzone is visiting Singapore for the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum, and has joined us here this evening. 

I am confident that this State Visit will lead to even more high-level exchanges between Singapore and Switzerland and even greater collaborations in areas of mutual interest.

Our strong political ties are supported by close economic cooperation. Switzerland was Singapore’s 6th largest trading partner in Europe in 2015, with trade increasing 3% from the previous year.  Imports from Switzerland contributed much to this trade statistic, reflecting the demand for high quality Swiss manufacturing and technology.  Bilateral economic relations have been greatly boosted by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.  Since the Agreement came into effect in 2003, Singapore’s trade with Switzerland and its partners in the EFTA has more than doubled. 

Switzerland is also Singapore's 7th largest investor internationally and 3rd largest investor from Europe.  More than 980 Swiss companies have established their presence in Singapore.  These companies are from diverse sectors, including chemicals and pharmaceuticals, precision engineering, food and beverage, logistics and finance, just to name a few.  Swiss companies including UBS, Novartis, Nestlé, Ricola and Swiss Bake are well-known corporate brands in Singapore.  Many more, such as ABB, Holcim, and Roche have established regional headquarters and centres for product development here.  

Singapore and Switzerland also enjoy excellent links in the field of education and research.  Switzerland’s academic institutions offer many useful lessons for Singapore as we re-structure our technical training programmes to better prepare our students for the new challenges of the global economy.  A number of Singapore’s institutions of higher learning have signed memoranda of understanding with eminent Swiss institutions, including the Universities of Bern, Zurich, and St Gallen as well as the École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne, to promote student exchanges and research collaboration.  

One key scientific cooperation project is the collaboration between Singapore’s National Research Foundation and the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in the establishment of the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability, which President Schneider-Ammann visited on his last trip to Singapore in November 2012. Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) similarly engages Swiss research institutes and companies to promote industrial research and collaboration.

This afternoon, President Schneider-Ammann and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman addressed a joint Swiss-Singapore Business Forum on SkillsFuture.  Switzerland’s strong tradition of professional and career education is one which Singapore is keen to learn from. In recent years, our Ministers and officials have made numerous trips to Switzerland to study the Swiss vocational education and training (VET) and apprenticeship model.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The excellent and multifaceted relationship between Singapore and Switzerland today is underpinned by deep people-to-people links.  The Swiss have a long presence in Singapore, and have contributed greatly to our development.   When Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, visited Switzerland in 1967, he recognised that the reason for Switzerland’s prosperity lay in the “intense discipline of a striving and a well-organised community.”  These are traits which the Swiss brought with them when they first arrived in Singapore as traders and entrepreneurs in the 19th century.  The Swiss Club, founded by these pioneers in 1871, is among the oldest clubs in Singapore. Today, the Club mirrors Singapore’s cosmopolitan makeup, with Swiss, Singaporean and other nationalities represented among its 1,400 members.

Institutions such as the Swiss Business Association, the Swiss School and the Swiss Association also play an important role in helping newcomers to settle in Singapore and integrate, by organising community events to allow the Swiss community and their Singapore neighbours to get to know one another better.  I would like to commend these organisations for their contributions.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my sincere hope that the multifaceted partnership and deep ties of friendship between Singapore and Switzerland will continue to grow and flourish in the years ahead.

Your Excellency

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

May I now ask you to rise and join me in a toast to the Swiss Confederation, to President Schneider-Ammann, and to the people of Switzerland.

Thank you.