Toast Speech by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the State Luncheon hosted by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Friday, 10 June 2016 at the Palacio Nacional, Mexico City
Your Excellency Enrique Peña Nieto
President of the United Mexican States
Mrs Angelica Rivera Hurtado
I would like to begin by expressing our deep appreciation for the warm hospitality you have shown to my wife, my delegation and me during this State Visit. I am honoured to have the privilege of being the first Singapore President to make a State Visit not only to Mexico, but also to Latin America.
This State Visit marks an important milestone in the bilateral ties between Mexico and Singapore. Forty years ago, on 22 December 1975, our two countries established diplomatic relations. It is my honour to represent the people of Singapore to commemorate this milestone in our relationship.
Both Singapore and Mexico have experienced many changes and made much progress in the four decades since we established diplomatic ties. Our two countries work closely together on various issues of mutual interest at international forums, including the United Nations, APEC, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Mexico and Singapore are able to work well together because our two countries share a common belief in the importance of mutual respect, dialogue, and compromise, to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. We also share a strong conviction in the value of building bridges and enhancing ties between our regions.
I made my first official visit to Mexico 25 years ago in 1991, when I was then Singapore’s Education Minister. I was part of the delegation accompanying then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who was leading a trade mission to Mexico. Trade between Mexico and Singapore in 1991 was only US$118 million. It has since grown to US$3.3 billion (S$4.6 billion) last year, and Mexico has become Singapore’s second-largest trading partner in Latin America. In spite of the challenges of distance and language, investment from Singapore into Mexico has also grown over time. Foreign direct investment from Singapore to Mexico was US$846 million (S$1.17 billion) as at end-2014.
There are now more than 40 Singaporean companies operating in Mexico, including Banyan Tree which runs resorts in Acapulco and Cancun. Other major Singaporean companies which have investments in Mexico include Hyflux, Swiber, Sunningdale, Temasek and GIC. Accompanying me on this State Visit is a delegation of Singaporean business leaders and representatives, who have spent the past two days participating in a series of business events to discuss and explore opportunities for further cooperation.
I am pleased that this interest to collaborate is mutual. Mexico is reaching out to Asia, and using Singapore as a gateway into ASEAN. Singapore offers a stable and business-friendly environment in which Mexican companies can expand their operations and tap into Asia’s continuing growth. Today, there are 81 Mexican companies in Singapore, capitalising on Singapore’s strategic location to serve the regional market. There is scope for Mexico and Singapore to do much more together, to leverage on each other’s strengths, especially in sectors such as oil and gas, manufacturing, and urban infrastructure.
At the government-to-government level, we have paved the way for closer trade and investment ties with an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, and an Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement. The MOU signed between International Enterprise Singapore and PROMEXICO yesterday is another step forward. These are frameworks that will boost confidence for businesses and ultimately help grow the commercial ties between Mexico and Singapore. They are also the foundations for the bridges we are building between Latin America and ASEAN.
We are also forging enduring links in other sectors. Universities in Singapore have active student exchange programmes with Mexico. There has been productive collaboration in scientific research and development, especially in the biomedical field. Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR) offers the “SINGA” Graduate Award Programme to Mexican scholars to take up PhD studies in Singapore. I encourage more students from both Mexico and Singapore to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities available.
This week, in conjunction with my visit to Mexico, a Singapore Film Festival is taking place in Mexico City. This is the first Singapore Film Festival to be held in Mexico, and showcases some of the very best of Singaporean films. The Film Festival is a wonderful opportunity for Mexicans to catch a glimpse of Singapore’s diverse culture in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.
I am also pleased that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and Mexico signed an MOU on International Development Cooperation this afternoon. The MOU will formalise the collaboration between Mexico and Singapore in joint capacity building programmes for developing countries, particularly those in Latin America. This is a new area of bilateral cooperation, and is another way in which Mexico and Singapore are working together to advance our shared vision of the future.
My visit to Mexico commemorates what we have done together over the last 40 years. I am confident that it also marks the beginning of the next chapter in our bilateral relationship, and of what we can do in the next 40 years and beyond. I have the great honour to invite Your Excellency to visit Singapore, and I am confident that together, we will elevate our partnership to new and greater heights.
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I invite you to rise and join me in a toast to:
- The continued good health and success of his Excellency President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mrs Rivera;
- The continued peace, progress, and prosperity of the Mexican people;
- The lasting and close friendship between Mexico and Singapore.