Sunday, 9 July 2017

Singapore at G20 summit 2017 in Hamburg

G-20 meet ends with compromise on trade, climate change
World's major economies commit to open markets but let US stand apart on Paris deal
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Hamburg, The Sunday Times, 9 Jul 2017

Leaders of the world's major economies, including the United States, have committed to keep markets open and fight trade protectionism at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit. But a deep chasm remains between the US and the other 19 members on climate change.

After a two-day summit fraught with tension inside and protests outside, the final statement from the G-20 leaders also tacitly recognised US President Donald Trump's concerns about what he calls unfair trade practices.

It acknowledged the role of "trade defence instruments", giving Mr Trump wiggle room to follow up on threats to impose tariffs on steel imports from countries such as China and push on with his "America First" policy.

In her closing press conference, summit host Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said: "I am satisfied that we were able to say markets need to be kept open."

But on climate change, she said she "deplored" America's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, but said all other nations agree that the climate accord is "irreversible".

Breaking with tradition, a separate paragraph was added to state the US stance on the continued use and sale of fossil fuels that are the main drivers of global warming.

"Wherever there is no consensus that can be achieved, disagreement has to be made clear," Dr Merkel said at the end of the summit.

Earlier yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Mr Trump for the first time. They reaffirmed the two countries' excellent bilateral ties and committed to work together to advance the relationship, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office. It added that President Trump is looking forward to receiving PM Lee in Washington later this year.

Mr Lee welcomed the Trump administration's continued engagement of the Asia-Pacific and looked forward to his participation in the Asean-US Summit, East Asia Summit, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in November. The leaders also exchanged views on regional and international developments.

After shaking hands with Mr Lee, Mr Trump said: "The Prime Minister of Singapore - we're very close, the relationship is very close, and we expect to do some excellent things together in many ways."

He added: "We have a very big relationship now. It will probably get much bigger."

Mr Lee also met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the summit. They pledged to continue supporting efforts to explore the way forward for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The US withdrew from the TPP in January, but the remaining 11 members have agreed to press on with the trade deal.

They also discussed developments on the Korean Peninsula, with Mr Lee expressing Singapore's grave concerns over escalating tensions there. Earlier this week, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which experts say could allow it to strike Alaska.

Yesterday, Dr Merkel, who is running for re-election in September, presented the summit as a success - while admitting the meeting had been overshadowed by violent anti- G-20 demonstrations, with at least 210 police officers hurt and 265 protesters detained as of yesterday.

Mr Trump congratulated her for the "fantastic job". Russian President Vladimir Putin praised her for finding an "optimal compromise" on the touchiest issue of climate, a view echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Nations agree on trade, disagree on climate
They pledge to fight excess steel supply; 19 say Paris deal must stay
The Sunday Times, 9 Jul 2017

HAMBURG • United States President Donald Trump's debut Group of 20 (G-20) summit yielded a concluding statement covered with the US leader's fingerprints.

While the meeting was marred by clashes and vandalism in protests throughout Hamburg, leaders inside the summit venue largely avoided the incendiary - striking a deal on trade, while agreeing to disagree on climate issues.

The talks ran into a major rift over global economic policy on Friday as Mr Trump, who spent much of his election campaign complaining about "unfair" trade hurting the US, held firm to his "America First" doctrine. G-20 officials were concerned about a trade war over steel as Mr Trump geared up for a decision on whether to impose punitive tariffs amid ongoing complaints about dumping on global markets.

During a working lunch with his G-20 counterparts, Mr Trump stressed he would always defend the American worker, according to a Western diplomatic official familiar with the closed-door session.

French President Emmanuel Macron challenged Mr Trump's view that the US is losing out on trade, the official said. Taking out his mobile phone, Mr Macron said that when he bought it, he created a trade deficit with the US, but that when America built it, it created a trade deficit with China. His point was that it does not make sense to talk about bilateral trade deficits in a multilateral world, the official said.

In its final communique, the G-20 pledged renewed efforts to combat excess capacity in the steel industry, according to a leaked copy of the text.

"We will keep markets open, noting the importance of reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks," said the statement. The G-20 will "continue to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices and recognise the rule of legitimate trade defence instruments in this regard".

Mr Trump's administration is weighing whether to impose tariffs, quotas or a combination of both on steel imports under national security grounds through Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, even though only a fraction of US steel is used for defence. Mr Trump's Commerce Department launched its review in April, missed a self-imposed deadline for a decision last month and is expected to announce a verdict soon.

The final text was seen as a blow to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has resisted Washington's efforts to squarely blame his government for the excess capacity and depressed prices for steel products.

The final statement also underlined Mr Trump's lone stand on climate change, saying that all G-20 members, except for the US, "state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible".

In the statement, the US announced that "it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions, while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs".

However, the other G-20 leaders, while taking note of the US decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, agreed that the climate deal was "irreversible".

"I think it's very clear that we could not reach consensus, but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting yesterday.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched peacefully through Hamburg yesterday, the largest demonstration yet at an event that has been marred by looting, rioting and running street battles between black-clad anarchists and armoured police with water cannon.

A third day of clashes would have been bad news for Dr Merkel who wanted to showcase her commitment to free speech by holding the summit in Hamburg, a trading hub with a tradition of leftist radicalism.


Right mindset needed to embrace digital future: PM Lee
He outlines ways govts can help workers, firms hit by tech shifts
By Royston Sim Assistant Political Editor In Hamburg, The Sunday Times, 9 Jul 2017

Countries need to have the right mindset towards technological advancements and be ready to embrace changes, to help their people realise the full benefits of digitalisation, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking at the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit yesterday, he outlined the ways governments can help workers and businesses affected by the onset of digitalisation and new technologies.

But he said that ultimately, it boils down to the question of mindset.

"Are we optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Are we confident in our ability to deal with major change? Do we believe human ingenuity and creativity will improve our lives, or do we fear that it will cause us more problems?" he said to leaders of the world's major economies at a working lunch on digitalisation, women's empowerment and employment.

Mr Lee noted that the integration of digital technologies with jobs and everyday life has brought great hope and also great fear.

On the one hand, many people are excited about developments such as personalised medicine, artificial intelligence and deep learning.

"These buzzwords have generated entrepreneurial energy and exuberance, and conjured up a brave new world where anything is possible," he said.

But on the other hand, digitalisation has also brought about great fear, with blue-collar workers and professionals worried that they will lose their jobs as a result of technological advancements, he said.

Singapore, like many other countries, has seen workers displaced and industries disrupted by new technologies.

In reality, this fear is not as grave as imagined, he added.

But in order for people and companies to feel hope, deep transformation is needed, he said.

Companies and industries need to change the way they do business and adopt new technologies, while workers have to change their mindsets and learn new skills, he added, saying this is where governments can play an active role.

To help companies enter new markets, as well as develop and adopt new technologies, he said, governments must provide the right environment, institutions and programmes.

They also need to set the right frameworks and rules to promote innovation, and prevent established ways of doing things from holding back progress, he added.

Mr Lee cited the sharing economy - from sharing car rides to rooms, bicycles and umbrellas - that has caused disruption to traditional companies.

Banning these businesses will deprive people of the benefits they offer, he said. At the same time, they cannot be left unregulated since there was " often good reason to regulate their traditional equivalents".

Mr Lee said new ideas and players must be allowed to emerge, while incumbent players still get a fair chance to adapt and compete.

Workers will also need new skills and the confidence to thrive in the new world, he said, and governments can train and equip them.

For instance, Singapore has the SkillsFuture programme, which promotes lifelong learning among workers, and has also rolled out basic coding programmes for schoolchildren.

Besides training workers, governments also need to help those at risk of being displaced adapt to the changing job market, Mr Lee said.

He pointed to schemes like Singapore's Adapt and Grow programme that trains displaced workers, matchmakes them to new jobs, and subsidises their wages as they make the transition.

He cited clean-room workers of electronics plants who received help to move to the medical device industry.

These workers learnt to do micro-stitching to make artificial heart valves, he said.

Summing up, Mr Lee said: "When it comes to digitalisation and jobs, we must not yield to our fears and anxieties. It is wiser for us to be optimistic and work hard to make our hopes come true."


PM Lee meets Abe, Argentine President and EU leaders
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 9 Jul 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday noted the successful celebration of 50 years of ties between their countries, as they met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit.

Singapore and Japan marked 50 years of diplomatic relations last year, and Mr Abe said at the meeting: "Japan is ready to further develop our cooperative relationship with Singapore, looking ahead to the next 50 years."

Thanking him, Mr Lee conveyed his sympathies on the floods in Kyushu in southern Japan, which were caused by heavy rain and have killed 15 people thus far.

During the meeting, both leaders spoke about further enhancing bilateral cooperation.

They discussed the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project, and Mr Lee welcomed Japan's interest.

They also agreed to work closely to enhance Japan-Asean relations.

Separately, Mr Lee met Argentine President Mauricio Macri, in the first bilateral meeting between both leaders.

They welcomed the enhanced engagement between Singapore and Argentina, including the reopening of the Argentine Embassy in Singapore later this year.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral cooperation in areas such as trade and investment facilitation, food security and education.

Both countries will also work closely at the regional and multilateral levels, said the PMO.

The leaders agreed there are opportunities for further cooperation, with Argentina assuming the G-20 presidency next year and Singapore chairing Asean.

They discussed potential synergies between Asean and Mercosur - a sub-regional bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Mr Macri had expressed interest in using Singapore as a hub to strengthen links between Latin America and Asia, when Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan called on him in April.

Yesterday, he accepted Mr Lee's invitation to make a state visit to Singapore next year.

Mr Lee yesterday also met European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

They discussed bilateral cooperation, including the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA).

Both sides supported an early ratification of the EUSFTA, "which will greatly benefit our businesses and further deepen our ties", the PMO added.

G-20 summit kicks off with sharp debate on trade
Some countries take aim at US, while PM Lee calls for benefits of trade to be redistributed
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Hamburg, The Straits Times, 8 Jul 2017

At a summit where the battle lines on trade and protectionism have been sharply drawn, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies to redistribute the benefits of global trade more equally to arrest the sentiments rising against it.

The risks are high if the mood spreads to more countries because it could hurt the livelihoods and prosperity of hundreds of millions of people, he said on the opening day of the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit in Hamburg.

Mr Lee was making the case for countries to support the multilateral trade model, such as the European Union and the Asean Economic Community.

The tone for the feisty summit had been set earlier, with United States President Donald Trump saying he still wanted Mexico - with whom he wants to renegotiate a trade pact - to pay for a border wall.

In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping took a swipe at the US for retreating from globalisation.

Meanwhile, Europe threatened to hit back with counter-measures if Mr Trump followed through on his promise to protect the US steel industry with tariffs, said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

In her opening statement at the summit earlier, host and German Chancellor Angela Merkel told leaders compromise is needed to address pressing global challenges.

She said: "Solutions can only be found if we are ready for compromise and move towards each other, but without - and I stress this - bending too much, because of course we can also state clearly when there are differences."

Expanding on the theme, Mr Lee said the trading system has come under siege in some countries, as workers and unions become anxious about jobs.

He acknowledged that there are "pluses and minuses within each country, but these can and must be squared off by governments through domestic policies, adjustment packages and political understandings," he said.

Singapore was invited to attend the G-20 summit as convener of the 3G, an informal group of 30 small and medium-sized countries. The G-20 is a group with 19 countries and the European Union.

While international trade has been an engine of prosperity and growth for all countries, it has become clear in recent decades that its benefits are not distributed equally, Mr Lee said. As a result, global trade is blamed for "painful domestic dislocations" although the evidence is far from clear.

With workers and unions growing more anxious about jobs, more question if an open, rules-based multilateral trading system is a shared good. This has political consequences, said Mr Lee.

Yesterday, Chinese President Xi Jinping slammed unnamed "major" developed nations for stoking geopolitical risks through calls to reverse globalisation and return to protectionism.

It could have been interpreted as an allusion to Mr Trump, one of whose first acts was to pull the US out of the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and pursue "America First" policies.

Separately, Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had their first high-stakes face-to-face meeting.

The start of the summit was marred by clashes between police and protesters in the northern German port city. Protesters tried to disrupt the summit hours after the police used water cannon on a group of about 1,000 people marching to the site of the meeting.

After the day's drama, the leaders attended a classical concert before dinner.

The summit continues today, with Mr Lee due to meet Mr Trump for the first time.

PM Lee Hsien Loong urges states to make multilateral trade work
Small countries should band together to be heard and achieve shared interests, he says
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Hamburg, The Straits Times, 8 Jul 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies not to abandon multilateral trade.

He also urged small countries to band together to make their collective voices heard and achieve shared interests, in the face of anti-trade and protectionist sentiments sweeping the globe.

Speaking at the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit, he argued that multilateral arrangements give countries greater scope to make trade-offs between different sectors, and reach "win-win deals".

Some countries deal with the anti-trade forces by adopting a bilateral approach to trade matters, he noted.

But many others, especially small countries such as Singapore and members of the Global Governance Group (3G), "strongly prefer the established multilateral route".

Singapore was invited to attend the G-20 summit as convener of the 3G, an informal group of 30 small and medium-sized countries. The G-20 is a group with 19 countries and the European Union.

PM Lee said many major trading countries have reaffirmed that they still support the multilateral model.

This, he added, is a politically courageous move that is crucial to prevent "tit-for-tat responses setting off a downward spiral".

He cited the EU as the best example of countries working multilaterally with one another and hoped the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would also unlock its potential.

WTO is the ideal platform for multilateral trade, but in practice, its 164 members find it difficult and time-consuming to reach deals, PM Lee said.

Still, the WTO does valuable work, he added, citing the Trade Facilitation Agreement that came into force in February this year.

The agreement is the first multilateral deal concluded in the WTO's 21-year history, and a 2015 study has projected that its full implementation will reduce members' trade costs by an average of 14.3 per cent, with developing countries standing to gain the most.

In December, trade ministers and senior officials from WTO member countries will attend the Ministerial Conference in Argentina.

PM Lee hoped the conference would focus on issues where members can find consensus, and take "meaningful steps forward supporting the multilateral trading system, and the WTO".

"For all its limitations, it is the ultimate forum for all trading nations to work together and build a global framework for trade," he said.

PM Lee and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reaffirm excellent bilateral ties
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 8 Jul 2017

HAMBURG • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit yesterday.

Both leaders reaffirmed excellent bilateral relations, and exchanged views on regional and international developments, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

PM Lee and Mr Rutte agreed to step up bilateral cooperation, including in cyber security.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) had inked a memorandum of understanding with the Netherlands' National Cyber Security Centre to boost cyber security cooperation in July last year. On Thursday, the CSA signed a joint declaration on cyber security cooperation with the German Federal Foreign Office.

Mr Lee and Mr Rutte looked forward to the early ratification of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), which will benefit businesses on both sides, the statement said.

The EUSFTA had hit a roadblock in May when the European Court of Justice ruled that it could not be concluded by the EU alone and had to be ratified by its 38 national and regional authorities to go into force.

Both leaders also reiterated their commitment and support for an open international trading system.

Mr Rutte had made an official visit to Singapore last November.

PM Lee Hsien Loong meets Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of G-20 summit
Leaders discuss ways to expand bilateral ties and deepen economic integration
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Hamburg, The Straits Times, 7 Jul 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the first day of his visit to Germany yesterday, and took stock of bilateral ties with both leaders.

PM Lee's meeting with Mr Xi in Hamburg, ahead of the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit today, is their first since the previous summit in Hangzhou last September.

In a sign of warming ties, it comes soon after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang accepted PM Lee's invitation to visit Singapore.

PM Lee and Mr Xi "affirmed the substantive bilateral relationship, frequent high-level exchanges and good progress made in bilateral cooperation", PM Lee's office said.

They discussed how Singapore could work with China to implement the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, which has made good progress in financial services and aviation connectivity.

They also agreed to promote closer economic integration through the speedy conclusion of an upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

Also discussed was the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project, and PM Lee welcomed China's interest.

PM Lee and Mr Xi said they were committed to work together to promote closer cooperation between Asean and China. Singapore is coordinator of Asean-China dialogue, and will chair Asean next year.

They also discussed regional and global developments, and PM Lee congratulated Mr Xi on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China under "one country, two systems".

Earlier in the day, PM Lee called on Dr Merkel at her office in Berlin.

They agreed to expand cooperation in new areas such as Industry 4.0, the development of start-ups, urban mobility and cyber security. An enhanced defence cooperation agreement is in the works, and the leaders hoped the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement would be swiftly ratified.

PM Lee also thanked Dr Merkel for inviting Singapore to the G-20 summit. Dr Merkel said: "As the chair of the Global Governance Group (3G), Singapore works very much to remind us of the interests of smaller countries and medium- sized countries."

The 3G is a group of 30 small and medium-sized countries, of which Singapore is convener, that seeks greater transparency and inclusivity in the G-20's discussions.

PM Lee said Singapore hopes to contribute its perspective and ideas and work with Germany and others to advance the G-20 agenda, and promote stronger engagement between the G-20 and the wider United Nations membership.

PM Lee will also meet several G-20 leaders, including US President Donald Trump, this week. While global growth and trade are among top items on the G-20 agenda, security concerns will also be discussed, in the light of North Korea's latest ballistic missile test and setbacks for ISIS in the Middle East.

Singapore, Germany to step up economic, security ties
Leaders ask ministers to review partnership and identify new areas for cooperation
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Berlin, The Straits Times, 7 Jul 2017

Singapore and Germany are working on an enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, and yesterday signed a Joint Statement on Cybersecurity Cooperation.

They are also embarking on new areas of cooperation - including research and development for Industry 4.0, fintech and sports, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said after meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel.

PM Lee said he is very happy that both countries have strengthened their cooperation since his last visit in 2015, for their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

The close partnership is underpinned by broad and deep collaboration, he said. "Most importantly, we are both like-minded on many issues with a shared strategic outlook. We are both strongly committed to an open international trading system, the rule of law and sustainable development."

Speaking before him, Dr Merkel said both sides agree on the need to strengthen multilateral ties, and keep trade flows open.

"As far as our bilateral ties are concerned, it is fair to say they are very close, very friendly indeed. We have been pursuing an open dialogue on foreign policy and security issues, we have excellent economic and trade ties, and we have a very intensive research cooperation," the Chancellor said in German.

Both leaders exchanged views on regional and global developments, and instructed their ministers to conduct a comprehensive review of the bilateral partnership, identify new opportunities for cooperation and report back to the leaders.

Singapore's Cyber Security Agency and Germany's Federal Foreign Office also signed a joint declaration of intent on cyber security cooperation. They will have regular information exchanges, joint training and research, and share best practices to promote innovation.

PM Lee said Singapore is grateful to Germany for letting the Singapore Armed Forces train in the country, and looks forward to stepping up close defence cooperation in many areas of mutual interest.

On trade, Singapore greatly appreciates Germany's support for the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), and both leaders hoped it will go into force soon. "It will bring significant benefits to Singapore, to Germany and in fact the whole of the EU, and signal clearly our support for international trade," said PM Lee, adding that it will be "a pathfinder" for an EU-Asean FTA, and help draw the two regions even closer together.

The EUSFTA hit a roadblock in May when the European Court of Justice ruled it had to be ratified by the EU's 38 national and regional authorities to go into force. The path is now clear for that process to be completed, PM Lee said.

He noted that Singapore and Germany also have strong ties in trade and investment - Germany is the Republic's largest trading partner in the EU, while Singapore is Germany's largest trading partner in Asean. Foreign direct investment from Germany was about $18.4 billion at the end of 2015.

Singapore companies are making inroads into the aerospace and hospitality sectors in Germany, and there are more than 1,600 German companies based in Singapore.

Major German corporations and Mittelstand - small and medium-sized enterprises - are using Singapore as an innovation hub for the advanced manufacturing and digitalisation sectors, PM Lee noted.

He will launch electronics giant Siemens' Singapore Digitalisation Hub from Munich next week. The hub, the first of its kind globally, will undertake research and development into digitalisation and the Internet of Things.

In welcoming PM Lee, Dr Merkel said: "I will never forget that you happened to be my first official visitor and guest when I took office."

PM Lee said he is visiting again to "take our relationship another step forward". "The Chancellor is a good friend, and I greatly value her advice, and her friendship and her insights," he said, before being hosted to lunch by Dr Merkel.

PM Lee also invited Dr Merkel to visit Singapore, and she agreed to reciprocate his visit.

Singaporeans in Germany celebrate National Day early with PM 
Lee Hsien Loong
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Munich, The Straits Times, 10 Jul 2017

When Mrs Amy Kiesgen moved to Germany with her German husband in 1994, there were only about 200 Singaporeans in the country.

"When I first came, I was alone. I saw Asians, but they were not Singaporeans," the 59-year-old housewife said.

That feeling of isolation drove the Singaporean to set up a group for Singaporeans based in Germany in 2006, when the Singapore Embassy broached the idea to her.

She started a Facebook page, Singaporeans in Germany, a year later.

The group regularly organises events for Singaporeans living in different German cities.

Yesterday, Mrs Kiesgen was one of more than 300 Singaporeans who turned up at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich to celebrate National Day a month early with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee, who is on a six-day working visit to Germany, flew to the capital of Bavaria a day after he attended the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit in Hamburg, where he met various world leaders including United States President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He also met Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Speaking at the reception yesterday, Mr Lee said: "I do many National Day parties every year, but seldom so far from home, seldom so early, and hardly ever so warm."

On the G-20 summit, he said: "It was a very useful meeting for Singapore to attend, both because of what we discussed in the meeting, but also because there's a chance for me to meet other leaders, to touch base with them."

Singapore is not a member of the G-20, which comprises the world's major economies. It was invited as a representative of the Global Governance Group, an informal grouping of 30 small and medium-sized countries, and Mr Lee had urged leaders to strengthen multilateral trade.

At the reception, Mr Lee drew laughter from the guests when he quipped: "I met President Trump yesterday, you might have read about it. I assure you it was me."

A photograph of the two leaders posted on Mr Trump's Instagram account yesterday wrongly identified Mr Lee as Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The caption was later corrected.

Mr Lee also noted that Singapore and its economy are doing well - the economy may grow by 2.5 per cent this year, he said, better than the 2 per cent growth recorded last year.

He also took a group photo with the guests, and mingled with them.

Those present included Mrs Hatijah Nuss, 59, who moved to Germany 31 years ago with her husband. She is the community leader for Singaporeans in Cologne, and teaches English to tertiary students.

She said events to bring Singaporeans together are organised at least three times a year, for occasions like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and National Day. There are currently over 2,000 Singaporeans in Germany.

Such gatherings are usually potluck-style, and she would whip up dishes like chicken curry. Like many other Singaporeans in Germany, she returns home at least once a year. "My husband misses durians," she said.

Mr Teo Song Wei, 29, moved to Munich nearly two years ago to be a car designer at a start-up. He misses chicken rice, and it is the first thing he eats every time he returns home. "I've tried to cook it on my own, but it's not the same," he said.

And while there is no work available for him as a car designer back in Singapore now, he plans to return home eventually to contribute to the country. "Hopefully, I'll get an HDB flat," he said.

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