Toast Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Lunch in Honour of New Zealand PM Christopher Luxon (Apr 2024)

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 15 April 2024

Toast speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the official lunch in honour of The Right Honourable Christopher Luxon, Prime Minister of New Zealand on 15 April 2024.

 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Kia ora and a very warm welcome to Prime Minister Luxon and all our friends from New Zealand. This is the Prime Minister’s first Official Visit, but he is no stranger to Singapore. The Prime Minister has visited us frequently in his previous roles, including in the private sector, and I hope that he will have a very fruitful trip this time.

The strong and longstanding friendship between Singapore and New Zealand has been built up over decades. New Zealand soldiers fought bravely and gave their lives to defend Singapore during World War Two. As we commemorate ANZAC Day next week, we remember and honour them for their sacrifice. New Zealand was also a strong supporter of Singapore in our early, uncertain years after independence in 1965. New Zealand troops stayed on for many years after that, contributing to our security and being good ambassadors for their country. When the first battalion of the RNZIR finally left Singapore in 1989, we were very sorry to bid them farewell.

Our strong bilateral cooperation is anchored by shared strategic perspectives and similar outlooks on issues such as trade liberalisation and economic integration. We have joined hands on many path-breaking economic initiatives. Singapore’s first bilateral FTA was with New Zealand, while we were New Zealand’s second bilateral FTA partner after Australia. We were both founding members of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, or better known as the P4, which eventually grew into the CPTPP. We launched the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) with Chile, which will soon welcome the ROK as a new member. These initiatives have strengthened trade and investments between our countries.

I am particularly pleased that Prime Minister Luxon has brought along a sizeable business delegation to Singapore. This reflects New Zealand companies’ strong interest in the economic opportunities that Singapore and Southeast Asia have to offer. Similarly, Singapore companies are investing in New Zealand, in areas like real estate, logistics and food. So, it is good that key business leaders on both sides are here attending our lunch today.

Our close people-to-people ties extend beyond business links. Close to 140,000 New Zealanders visited Singapore last year, and New Zealand has a special place in the hearts of many Singaporeans. It is a popular holiday destination for us. More than 47,000 of us visited New Zealand last year – we are New Zealand’s seventh largest source of tourists. New Zealand’s fresh produce, particularly fruits, dairy, and meat are very popular in Singapore.

For today’s lunch, the beef and wine, you will be reassured to know, come from New Zealand. And the dessert is a local delicacy called ondeh-ondeh – it is infused with Manuka honey. In sports, the All Blacks have many fans in Singapore. The fans were thrilled to see the All Blacks win the Singapore Rugby Sevens last year, which secured their ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Given the affinity between our two countries, it is fitting that we do more together. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Luxon and our New Zealand friends to identify forward-looking areas of cooperation to elevate our Enhanced Partnership.

Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. May I now invite you to join me in a toast to: His Majesty the King and the people of New Zealand. To the good health and happiness of Prime Minister Luxon and his delegation. To the continued peace and prosperity of New Zealand; and to the enduring and close friendship between Singapore and New Zealand.

Cheers.

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