Singapore

PM Lee: Singapore’s good reputation has value abroad

He also says Pacific Alliance-Singapore FTA will yield dividends

Singapore's reputation for competence and integrity is a valuable resource that has currency even across the Pacific Ocean, and is a competitive advantage in a world of growing protectionism and uncertainty, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday.

Such goodwill is worth developing, and it is why the Republic is pursuing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Pacific Alliance countries of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, PM Lee said at the conclusion of a four-day visit to Mexico.

While Singapore has existing trade agreements with Chile, Mexico and Peru, the Pacific Alliance-Singapore FTA that could be concluded this year will pay a dividend in building links with Colombia, said Mr Lee.

More than two-thirds of the FTA text has been agreed, and Singapore is optimistic that the next round of negotiations slated to take place in Mexico in a few weeks will conclude the process.

Mexico also wants to collaborate with Singapore in areas such as logistics, urban planning and digital governance because Singapore is viewed as a reliable partner with a good reputation, he said.

Earlier in the day, PM Lee was hosted to lunch by Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard, together with a group of governors from the states of Queretaro, Durango, Guanajuato, Oaxaca and San Luis Potosi.

PM Lee registered Singapore's interest in expanding cooperation with the Mexican states and welcomed the growing cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, education and master-planning, the Prime Minister's Office said.

"(The governors) all want to bring in investments to develop their states, to link up with Asia, so I think there are opportunities for us to develop here in Mexico and the Pacific Alliance countries, (among which) there's a certain realisation of the need to work together and to look across the Pacific to Asia."

In an address to the Mexican Senate, PM Lee said the strategic location of Singapore, near the centre of Asia, and Mexico, near the centre of the Americas, is why both should be "pathfinders of trade and commerce".

And in a globalised world where countries cooperate extensively with one another, a more integrated Asia Pacific is in everyone's interest, he added.

PM Lee said Mexico and Singapore had similar beginnings as trade hubs that drew immigrants seeking a better life, and the two are today cosmopolitan, with rich cultures.

"Mexico City's renowned street food culture exemplifies this - your delicious tacos, quesadillas, tamales, empanadas and nachos bear influences from all over the world, including from Europe, Asia and Africa, and have travelled all over the world, carrying Mexican influence and soft power," he said.

Singapore hopes to inscribe its hawker food in Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the way Mexico did for its traditional cuisine in 2010, he added.

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