Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Singapore, France to collaborate further in innovation

French President Francois Hollande in Singapore for 2-day state visit
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2017

Singapore and France will deepen their cooperation in industries related to innovation such as space technology, smart cities planning and financial technology.

This was spelled out in a joint declaration by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Francois Hollande yesterday, the second and last day of the French leader's state visit to Singapore.

Mr Hollande called on Mr Lee at the Istana, and was hosted to lunch at the Wild Rocket @ Mount Emily restaurant, which serves modern Singaporean cuisine.

The leaders reviewed the substantial and broad-based relations between Singapore and France, said a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

They also welcomed the strong progress in the relationship between the two countries after it was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2012.

Since then, both countries have expanded their ties in trade, defence, culture, security, cyber security, education and research, said the MFA.

The ministry also said Mr Lee and Mr Hollande agreed that the ratification of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement will benefit both countries, and help strengthen relations between the two countries and regions.

They noted that Singapore and France share common views on the importance of free trade and remaining open to the world.

Mr Lee thanked Mr Hollande for France's hosting of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's advanced training jet detachment in Cazaux. It will mark its 20th anniversary next year.

The year 2018 will also be the France-Singapore Year of Innovation, under the joint declaration of innovation.

Events that encourage more collaboration in innovation will be held in both countries.

Singapore and France prioritise the strengthening of their respective innovation ecosystems, including programmes to promote research and development, as well as support entrepreneurs in the area of innovation, said the declaration.

In it, Mr Lee and Mr Hollande agreed that their countries have much to learn from each other's experience and approach to fostering innovation, and can work well together for mutual benefit.

Ten agreements were signed at the Singapore-France Innovation Forum yesterday, paving the way for research collaboration in areas including digital engineering and electric vehicles.

Four more agreements were also inked at the Istana.

These were in research and innovation collaboration, space research, renewable energy and automatic exchange of financial account information to improve compliance with international tax standards.

Protectionism cannot prevail: French President Francois Hollande
Resist temptation to look inward as global order comes under threat: French leader
By Charissa Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2017

Big democracies and even entire continents may face the temptation of looking inward, but this so-called solution leads to a dead end, visiting French President Francois Hollande said yesterday.

He urged world leaders to resist protectionism amid an uncertain world, and to show people who fear globalisation that the best way forward is still an international order based on rules.

Delivering a lecture on the second and final day of his state visit to Singapore, Mr Hollande defended the international system of rules and cooperation created after World War II. It has prevented further conflict and brought about prosperity, he argued.

However, this global order is now being threatened by those who do not want to open their economy, he said in French in his 30-minute lecture titled "France and Singapore, Strategic Partners in a Fast-changing World".

Voters will have the final say in this clash of visions, said the outgoing French President, who will not seek re-election when his term ends in May.

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, considered one of the front runners to succeed Mr Hollande, is campaigning on an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union platform.

In an uncertain global climate, populists can tap into legitimate fears that people might feel, and "be tempted to impose solutions that might be contrary to the interests of our country", Mr Hollande said.

But leaders must explain the consequences of such inward-looking actions, he told about 1,000 officials, academics and students at the Singapore Lecture organised by the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute.

He said: "We must explain what the closing down of borders is all about. What the building of a wall means. What unfair and inappropriate trade policies might mean, because it will target nationals of only one country, for instance."

While he did not provide names, it was a clear reference to the anti-immigration platform adopted by supporters of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, and to American President Donald Trump, who wants a wall along the United States-Mexico border.

He acknowledged that sections of the public have understandable fears about globalisation.

Leaders thus need to reassure people that trade can be fair, said Mr Hollande.

He made the case for "regulated globalisation" based on the sovereignty of nations but with a place for international organisations, particularly the United Nations.

"Those who attack the UN are diminishing the ability of world governance to find solutions for conflicts," he said.

"They cannot be strengthening their own nations to the detriment of the system of international regulation."

He said that it is also very easy for populists to tell the public that imposing duties and taxes on foreign goods and services will protect jobs, but such policies will harm countries because it strikes at the heart of what enabled world growth for the past 60 years - the refusal of protectionism.

If goods and services cannot be freely exchanged, and technology and knowledge freely moved between countries, this could mean fewer jobs overall, he added.

This is why leaders must show that the only solution for a fairer world is multilateralism, compliance with international law, respect for independence and openness, said Mr Hollande.

"We are not powerless and indifferent. We can act, and it is up to states to do so," he said.

France shares these principles with Singapore, said Mr Hollande, who concluded by stating that France wants to retain its presence in Asia.

This prompted Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who moderated the session, to thank him for his "clear and forthright statement of support for a rules-based order".

Earlier in the day, Mr Hollande met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who hosted a lunch for him.

He also spoke at the France-Singapore Innovation Forum and had an orchid named after him. The Dendrobium Francois Hollande, a hybrid species, has light chestnut-brown petals.

Mr Hollande departed for Malaysia last night, and will visit Indonesia next on what is likely his last foreign tour as president.

Singapore must stay open amid global uncertainty: Tharman
By Jacqueline Woo, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2017

Singapore must stay open to the world amid heightened uncertainty globally and as technological disruptions threaten to upend a range of industries, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Speaking at the Singapore-France Innovation Forum yesterday, he noted that it is tempting for nations to question the value of remaining open to the world in such a context.

"This is not an option for Singapore," he said.

"Like France, we remain committed to international cooperation and growing trade, investment, research and development, defence and educational relationships with other countries, so that we can tap each other's strengths to create a better future for our people."

In particular, the Republic and other advanced economies should address the widening innovation gap between firms at the frontier of knowledge, productivity and new products, and the rest of the economy, said Mr Tharman, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

"Almost everywhere in the developed world, we have seen a weakening in the pace with which new ideas, new innovations are spread, from the frontier to the rest of our economies. These growing gaps in productivity have also been an important driver of wage inequalities in most developed countries."

But he added that both France and Singapore recognise this problem, and that cooperation between the two countries can enhance their national strategies to grow innovation in all its dimensions.

Ties between the two nations are set to receive an added boost when the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) goes into force. As the first free trade agreement (FTA) concluded between the EU and an ASEAN nation, the EUSFTA is also a building block towards an eventual EU-ASEAN FTA, said Mr Tharman.

At the same time, 10 agreements were signed at the forum to further research collaboration between the two countries in areas such as digital engineering, energy access and electric vehicles.

The forum, held at Biopolis and organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the French Embassy, was in conjunction with French President Francois Hollande's state visit to Singapore.

Mr Hollande, who also spoke at the event, noted that there are more opportunities for both Singapore and France to further collaborate, such as in areas like healthcare and biomedical sciences, aerospace, smart cities and financial technology.

He added that the ASEAN chapter of France's Club Sante, an association of medical technology and biotech businesses, will be set up in Singapore as well.

Speaking in French, Mr Hollande told the forum that research or innovation can be done only as part of a network - and this is the reason it is important to foster partnerships and alliances, and to remain open even as big companies and countries look inwards.

"France and Singapore share the same priority for innovation... It is our ability to create; it is also our spirit of entrepreneurship (that) is going to give us a relative advantage in (a globalised world)."

Presidents of Singapore, France celebrate close bilateral ties
Friendship should be built upon to signal commitment to staying open, they say
By Rachel Au-Yong and Lee Seok Hwai, The Straits Times, 27 Mar 2017

France and Singapore share a special friendship, their heads of state said last night, as President Tony Tan Keng Yam hosted visiting French President Francois Hollande to a state banquet.

This relationship dates back long before Singapore's independence, and France was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Singapore on independence in 1965.

And at a time of global uncertainty, both leaders said these ties should be built upon to signal a commitment to staying open and connected.

Ties between the two countries today are so close that it is not difficult to spot French influences here, Dr Tan said in his dinner speech.

St Joseph's Institution, which Dr Tan attended and is one of Singapore's oldest schools, was set up by the La Salle brothers and a priest from Brittany in 1852, he noted.

Today, 165 years later, many Singaporeans take Alstom MRT trains to get to work. Some drive Peugeot or Renault cars.

"Not too long from now, they will also be able to participate in an electric car-sharing programme run by French transportation company, Bollore," Dr Tan added.

Mr Hollande, the first sitting French president to make a state visit to Singapore, also highlighted longstanding ties.

"France regards Singapore not just as an economic partner but also a friend. This solid relationship is based on a long history," he said in French. He noted how two French naturalists, Pierre-Medard Diard and Alfred Duvaucel, accompanied Sir Stamford Raffles on his journey to Singapore in 1819. The relationship has since grown from the time founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew met French president Georges Pompidou in 1970, when Mr Lee "said then that he hoped France would be by Singapore's side during the island's development", Mr Hollande said.

"Our relations have since surpassed that initial ambition. Allow me to pay tribute here to the memory of Singapore's founding father, the anniversary of whose demise you just marked a few days ago," he added.

He noted that a number of French companies have contributed towards Singapore's Smart Nation project, and many tertiary institutions like Insead and Sorbonne University have chosen to establish a presence or partnerships here.

Today, there are over 1,800 French enterprises in Singapore, and 15,000 French nationals make Singapore their second home.

Dr Tan said the bilateral relationship had made great strides during the presidency of Mr Hollande, most notably the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership, which both countries signed in 2012.

Since then, the two countries have deepened cooperation, not only in traditional areas but also emerging ones such as space technology, renewable energies and nuclear safety, Dr Tan said.

And as this year marks the fifth anniversary of the Strategic Partnership, Mr Hollande's visit is "a fitting occasion to inject new impetus into our bilateral cooperation in innovation - a priority area of our respective national growth strategies".

Singapore's cooperation with France in defence, security and culture has also strengthened, he said.

"Singapore deeply appreciates France's strong support for the RSAF's fighter pilot training in Cazaux, which will mark its 20th anniversary next year," Dr Tan said, adding that collaboration in areas like counter-terrorism and cyber security has also been stepped up.

France's yearly Voilah! festival has become a key highlight in Singapore's cultural calendar, and Singaporean artists are making their presence felt in France, he added.

Such links must continue amid an uncertain global environment and as many governments are facing pressures to turn inwards, he said.

"Being able to work with reliable friends is more important than ever. France is such a friend of Singapore," Dr Tan added.

He noted the ratification of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement would reinforce the belief that "free and open trade will bring tangible benefits to our peoples".

"Singapore also looks forward to France's support for the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement which will strengthen air connections between our two regions, and signal the value both our countries place on having a connected world rather than a fragmented one," he said.

Mr Hollande reiterated France's commitment to openness and the rule of law, and added: "We are also aware that in the region it's necessary to be assured of this equilibrium, this principle of law. Be assured that France will always be by your side to uphold this."

Yesterday, he also visited the Asia-Pacific campus of France's Essec business school where he called for efforts to intensify Asia-Europe ties in the face of resurgent "isolationism", Agence France-Presse reported. He said Europe must tell Asia "we have much to do together, much to defend and much to promote".

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