Minister Grace Fu, Prof Tommy Koh, Dr Michael Pulch, Mr Chris Humphrey
14 July 2015 (Tuesday)
The Pod, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street, Singapore 188064
3.00pm to 5.30pm
The EU Centre in Singapore and World Scientific organised a book launch for the new book entitled “50 Years of Singapore-Europe Relations: Celebrating Singapore’s Connections with Europe” on the 14 July 2015 at The Pod, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street.
In his opening address, the Managing Director of World Scientific Publishing Mr Max Phua, expressed his delight at the quick production of of this new book. Mr Phua also touched on World Scientific’s series of SG50 books this year to mark the 50 years of Singapore’s independence. This series of books cover a broad range of topics from social issues, international relations, to engineering and environment. In relating to Singapore-Europe ties, he also spoke of his company’s expansion within Europe.
EUC Director Dr Yeo also spoke at the book launch. She told the audience that the book was inspired by Professor Tommy Koh and talked about how the EU and Europe-Singapore ties have developed in the past 50 years. In drawing attention to the recent developments in Europe, she cautioned that while the EU is still very much a work in progress, we should not underestimate the importance of the EU to Singapore. The conclusion of the EU-Singapore FTA is an example of this important partnership, Singapore has also through initiatives such as ASEM and ASEF bring about greater ties between Asia and Europe.
In her speech to participants, Guest-of-Honour Minister Grace Fu (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2nd Minister for Environment and Water Resources and 2nd Minister for Foreign Affairs) drew inspiration from the book’s cover, arguing that like a young sapling, Singapore will have to learn from the strong and matured trees in Europe in order to go on and thrive. She acknowledged that the history of Europe is long and storied, resulting in many stories of excellence in all areas of life. She also touched on the strong ties that European nations have with Singapore – many European nations such as the UK and France recognised Singapore’s independence and offered help, and up to today many European companies continue to invest in Singapore. Today, the EU is the largest investor in Singapore, and the republic is the second largest Asian investor in the EU.
Minister Fu noted that Singapore has gained many things from European nations in terms of politics, economics and culture. At the same time, she also shared with the audience how Singapore has contributed to Europe. It has brought delectable Asian cuisine to the shores of Europe, and has played a role in drawing closer Europe and Asia through the ASEM process. She ended by touching on the people-to-people ties, paying tribute to Dr Albert Winsemius, Brother Joseph McNally and Professor Wieslaw Nowinski for their personal contributions to Singapore.
The book launch was followed by a panel discussion with Ambassador at large, Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador of the European Union to Singapore Dr Michael Pulch, and Executive Director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council Mr Chris Humphrey. In his remarks, Prof Koh hailed the contributions of European companies such as GSK, Nestle and Airbus in the development of Singapore’s economy, as well as the cultural and educational ties that exist between Singapore and the Europe. He talked more on the vision that Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had in 1994 to bridge the institutional gap between Europe and Asia through the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), noting that Singapore is committed to forging better ties between the two regions through the ASEM process. He also called on ASEM to be benchmarked to APEC, and argued that the EU should take the initiative to negotiate an EU-ASEAN FTA and an EU-RCEP FTA.
Ambassador Pulch touched on the EU’s vision for ASEAN, highlighting the release of a paper on furthering the EU-ASEAN partnership. This paper was issues just before EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini’s visit to Singapore for the Shangri-La dialogue at the end of May. Dr Pulch argued that a strong ASEAN is good for regional peace and prosperity, as well as a good partner for economic and security matters. He ended by citing the strong economic ties that Singapore and the EU enjoy, and that there are many benefits of such close ties such as the provision of employment and skills by European companies, the joint work in addressing radical groups such as ISIS and both sides’ commitment to combating climate change.
Mr Chris Humphrey noted that Singapore is a good friend of EU businesses and that many businesses use Singapore as a hub. He hailed the creation of the EU-Singapore FTA, arguing that the benefits to both sides will be huge when the FTA comes into force. Mr Humphrey also talked about the role of the EU-ASEAN Business Council in supporting ASEAN integration through the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). He noted that the ASEAN region is seen by many European companies as a good place to invest. He also called upon ASEAN governments to engage more with businesses in the development of the AEC.
The Straits Times has also reported on the book launch. Their report can be found at http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/eu-urged-to-go-for-free-trade-deal-with-asean.
The 50 Years of Singapore-Europe Relations book can be ordered from World Scientific. To place your order for this book, please download the order form here, fill in your payment details and address it to: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd, 5 Toh Tuck Link, Singapore 596224.