Transcript of PM Lee Hsien Loong's remarks when he was presented with the Distinguished Guest of the City and Mayor Medal by the mayor of Mexico City Claudia Sheinbaum on 20 November 2019.
Good afternoon. On behalf of my Singapore delegation, I wish to thank the people of Mexico City for the very warm hospitality, which you have extended to us.
I am deeply honoured to be designated a Distinguished Guest of your beautiful city, and to receive this medal from Mayor Sheinbaum.
It reflects the growing relationship between Mexico and Singapore, leading up to our celebration of 45 years of diplomatic relations next year.
This is my first visit to Mexico City. I have long wanted to come, but have not had the opportunity until now. I am very happy to be here, and only wish I had been able to make the visit much earlier.
We arrived on Sunday. We have been charmed by your welcome, by what we have seen, and we have seen as much of the city as we could, and met many of your warm and friendly people. I have taken a few walks, and quite a few photographs. But I cannot shake off the feeling that I have only seen a small sliver of your vibrant and beautiful city.
Your history stretches back roughly 700 years. Many different layers of time manifest in the diversity of your buildings and your monuments. Historic sites, such as the Templo Mayor, which is across the square from here, which remind us of your ancient history as the centre of the Aztec empire, when you were called Tenochtitlan. More contemporary buildings, like the Monument to the Niños Héroes and the National Palace that commemorate your modern history.
Like Singapore, Mexico City was a centre of trade and commerce. Singapore too, benefitted from geography, like you did. You straddled the isthmus between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, where Singapore was strategically located at the end of the Malacca Straits, where the Indian Ocean meets the South China Sea. So both of our cities were natural crossroads where people and goods converged, and both became important centres of shipping and trade for our respective regions. Mexico became a thriving hub for the trans-Pacific trade. Manila Galleons sailed here from the orient, bringing spices from Southeast Asia, porcelain from China, fabrics from India, to be sold at the Zócalo. Singapore too was a thriving sea port from the 14th century, known originally as Temasek. Over the centuries, Singapore’s fortunes waxed and waned.
But when an Englishman, Stamford Raffles, arrived in Singapore two hundred years ago, he saw the potential of our deep water harbour, and established Singapore as a free port. That was an inflection point in our history that set us on an upward trajectory that brought us to where we are today.
Our similar beginnings shaped us into the multicultural, cosmopolitan cities that we have become. It is why our populations are so diverse, and our cultures are so rich. People streamed into our cities to earn a living, as scribes, cobblers, labourers, or traders. They brought with them their cultures, their ideas and their ways of life. 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 culture and Mexican influence with you – soft power. Singapore too has a diverse street food culture that we are proud of. In fact, we too hope to inscribe our hawker food in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as you did for your traditional cuisine in 2010.
So, as you can see, we may be on opposite sides of the globe, separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, but we are actually quite similar in our outlooks. There are many areas where we can cooperate and learn from one another. I had a brief conversation with the Mayor just now, and the preoccupations we have, in our case, a city of 5.6 / 5.7 million people, in your case, a city of 9 million people – how to deliver services better? How do you use technology to the full? How to make sure that there is digital access for all of our population, including the low income, and there is no digital divide. We may be far away from one another, and yet our preoccupations are strikingly similar to one another. Which is why I invited the Mayor to come to Singapore, so we can continue our interaction and learn somemore from each other. Many Singaporeans visit Mexico. I hope many more will come, and similarly, I hope many more Mexicans would come and visit Singapore. These two-people exchanges will lead to greater understanding, greater friendship, greater prosperity, and develop lasting ties between two nations on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.
Thank you once again for this very great honour, I shall treasure it for a very very long time. Thank you.
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