PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Dinner Hosted in Honour of Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen
PM Lee Hsien Loong hosted an official dinner at the Istana in honour of PM of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen, as part of PM Rasmussen's Official Visit to Singapore on 29 to 30 November, 2017.
Your Excellency Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and of course, Mrs Rasmussen.
A very warm welcome to Prime Minister and Mrs Rasmussen. Even though this is your first official visit, I believe Singapore should be a familiar place to you. We met here in 2009 and 2010, and last year we have the chance to meet in Washington D.C. for the Nuclear Security Summit. I am very happy to meet this time, to meet again and to host you properly in Singapore.
Singapore and Denmark have a long relationship. You were one of the first countries to recognise us and to establish diplomatic relations when we became independent in 1965. But our ties go back much further. You established a consulate in Singapore in 1845, more than 170 years ago and even before that, you had left an imprint in our history. Nathaniel Wallich was a Danish surgeon and naturalist who helped Sir Stamford Raffles to design our first botanical garden in 1822 at Fort Canning. This was perhaps the start of Singapore becoming a garden city. To mark Wallich’s contribution, the hill where he lived was named Mount Wallich. The hill had a good vantage point, and there is a painting of Singapore in 1856 which is “Singapore at Sunrise from Mount Wallich in 1856”. It is one of the best panoramic records of Singapore of that time. Today, if we want to go and look for the same point of view, you would need a drone because Mount Wallich is no longer there. It was levelled in the late 19th century, and used to fill in Telok Ayer Bay, where our financial district now is.
But Denmark continues to have a significant presence in Singapore. In fact, our partnership has strengthened over the years, even though geographically we are a long way away from each other. Because we are natural partners in many areas. First, we are both maritime nations and shipping hubs in our regions. Four out of the five leading Danish shipping groups are in Singapore, which they use as their base in Asia – Torm A/S, A.P. Møller-Maersk, DS Norden, and J. Lauritzen. They are all here. Our two countries also cooperate closely to promote the use of technology in the shipping industry. For example, on the adoption of e-Certificates to replace paper documentation. Our Maritime Port Authority’s (MPA) Maritime Innovation and Technology Fund has supported over a dozen R&D projects involving Danish companies.
Secondly, because our economies are open and highly reliant on trade, we are like-minded on the issues of international trade and globalisation. Bilateral trade has remained high – nearly S$900 million per year. Denmark has substantial investments in Singapore – S$14 billion worth. These are substantial sums for small countries. Flows of people, goods and investments between our countries have continued to increase under our Open Skies Agreement. We are grateful that Denmark has been a strong supporter for Singapore’s observer status in the Arctic Council, and also a strong supporter of the early ratification of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA).
Thirdly, Denmark has been an inspiration for Singapore. I am told that the idea of placing our Merlion at the mouth of Singapore River came from the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen. Of course, I must acknowledge that the Little Mermaid is much more delicate and petite than the Singapore Merlion.
There is a lot more we can learn from each other given our common challenges and concerns about aging populations, shrinking workforce, sustainable development and the future economy. Many Singapore Ministers have visited Denmark, and officials too, to learn about your policies on innovation, lifelong learning, vocational training, sustainable development as well as marriage and parenthood. Your cities are among the most bicycle-friendly in the world. I was struck when I visited Copenhagen in December 2009, in the depths of your Nordic Winter to attend the climate change conference. I was struck by the sight of people cycling in the dark, in the freezing winter. So, I concluded that if the Danes could cycle in winter, Singaporeans must be able to do so in the tropics. Now we are working hard to popularise cycling as a serious mode of transport.
Prime Minister Rasmussen, when we met last year, we talked about how to prepare our economies for the future. We discussed this further this morning, in particular, the need to use technology to improve our people’s lives. Denmark is the EU’s most digitalised country and Singapore, we aspire to be a Smart Nation. Therefore, I am glad that our research institutes and officials are stepping up cooperation in technology and research, in areas like sustainable development, healthcare and urban transport. As our two countries seek fresh responses to future challenges and opportunities, I hope that both sides will continue to explore new areas of cooperation. New projects that will grow our partnership and benefit our future generations.
Prime Minister, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in a toast to Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II and the people of Denmark, the good health and success of Prime Minister Rasmussen and Mrs Rasmussen and the enduring friendship between Singapore and Denmark. Thank you.
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