France and Singapore

Presentation

With trade totalling €7.8 billion in 2015, Singapore is our leading trade partner in South-East Asia and our third in Asia (behind China and Japan).

Our bilateral relations with Singapore are characterized mainly by:

  • regular, confident, productive dialogue, which is almost unparalleled in Asia;
  • exemplary security and defence cooperation;
  • ties adapted to the requirements of globalization, including in the areas of trade, finance, scientific research and academic training.

Political relations

Our bilateral relations are excellent and confident, as demonstrated by the official visits of President Tony Tan in May 2015, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the diplomatic relations between our two countries, of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Paris in January 2008, December 2009 and October 2013, and of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr George Yeo, in January 2009.

The official visit of the French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, to Singapore in October 2012, was his first trip outside Europe in this capacity. It was an opportunity to elevate our bilateral relations to the level of a strategic partnership, signed on 18 October 2012. It is the second in the region, after the one in Indonesia (a strategic partnership was since signed with Vietnam in September 2013).

The Secretaries-General of the respective Foreign Ministries hold annual consultations: the next ones will take place on 25 January 2017.

Recent visits

To Singapore

  • 3-5 June 2016: visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, to participate in the 15ᵗʰ session of the Shangri-La Dialogue
  • 7-8 April 2016: visit by Mr Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad
  • 14-16 February 2015: visit by Mr Alain Vidalies, Minister of State for Transport, the Sea and Fisheries.
  • 15 January 2015: visit by Mr Michel Sapin, Minister of Finance and Public Accounts
  • 15-16 October 2014: visit by Mr Philippe Errera, Director of Strategic Affairs at the Ministry of Defence
  • 29-30 September 2014: visit by Mr Philippe Varin, Special Representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development for the ASEAN
  • 19 September 2014: visit by Mr Christian Masset, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development
  • 30 May-1 June 2014: visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, to participate in the Shangri-La Dialogue
  • 20-22 April 2014: visit of Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, President of the Senate
  • 31 May-2 June 2013: visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, to participate in the 12ᵗʰ session of the Shangri-La Dialogue. Visit by Admiral Édouard Guillaud, Joint Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces
  • 18-19 October 2012: official visit by the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Trade and the Minister Delegate for French Nationals Abroad
  • June 2012: visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, to participate in the 11ᵗʰ session of the Shangri-La Dialogue

To France

  • October 2016: Mr Tharman Sanmugaratnam, Vice-Prime Minister
  • October 2016: Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister
  • December 2015: Mr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • September 2015: Mr Chan Yeng-Kit, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence
  • May 2015: Mr Tony Tan, President
  • September 2014: Visit by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister
  • September 2014: Visit by Mr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence
  • November 2013: Visit by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth
  • October 2013: official visit by Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister, accompanied by Ms Grace Fu, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry
  • June 2013: Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth
  • June 2013 (Paris Air Show, Le Bourget): Mr Chan Chun Sing, Second Minister for Defence, and Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Minister for Transport
  • May 2013: Ms Foong Pheng Ow, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry
  • May 2013: Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister

Economic relations

Singapore is our leading trade partner in South-East Asia and our third in Asia. France’s market share in Singapore has grown over the last decade, reaching 25% in 2015. France has recorded positive current account balances for several years, with €2.8 billion in 2015, representing our third-largest trade surplus worldwide (behind the United Kingdom and Hong Kong).

Trade between France and Singapore totalled €7.8 billion in 2015. Our imports climbed to €2.5 billion (pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, computers), and our exports to €5.3 billion (electronic components, cosmetics, aviation industry, alcohol).

French groups are represented through contracts that are often emblematic, such as SportsHub, which was won by Dragages, Alstom for gas power plants, Veolia for waste processing, Geostock for the storage of hydrocarbons, and Airbus, Safran and Thales for aviation and maintenance.

France’s investment stock in Singapore reached €10.7 billion in 2015, accounting for almost two thirds of French investment in the region. Singapore is home to 680 branch offices of French businesses, primarily in the sectors of business services, electronics and IT, the mechanical, steel and defence production equipment industry, energy, chemistry and materials and 330 entrepreneurs. Singaporean investments in France, however, remain very low, and essentially focus on the real estate sector (purchase of the Citadines hotel chain and buildings in the La Défense business district).

Source: BusinessFrance and the Directorate-General of the Treasury

Tourism

According to Atout France estimates, 80,000 Singaporean tourists visited France in 2014 and some 200,000 French tourists visited Singapore in 2014. Many pass through to visit neighbouring countries. Atout France decided in 2015 to open an office with a regional representative based in Singapore.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our scientific cooperation is fostered by the priority accorded by Singapore to research and new technologies sectors. It focuses as a priority on biotechnologies, optics and opto-electronics, IT, robotics and applied mathematics. Our bilateral cooperation is growing constantly, with around 130 French researchers based in Singapore, the increasing importance of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)’s regional platform in Singapore which opened in September 2014, the Hubert Curien Partnership “Merlion” which finances joint research projects, the regional ICT-Asia and Bio-Asia programmes networking researchers between France and Asia, and the signing of an agreement between the French National Research Agency (ANR) and the Singaporean National Research Foundation on 30 May 2014 for the co-funding of joint research projects.

The growth of our academic cooperation has continued, with an emphasis on dual degrees (between French grandes écoles and Singaporean universities), illustrated by the establishment in Singapore of centres of the ESSEC (in January 2015), INSEAD (since 2001) and EDHEC (January 2011) business schools and Sorbonne University. In 2014, 510 students from Singapore (15% growth on 2013) came to study in France (business, management and marketing).

France supports Singapore in its ambition to become a regional cultural centre, and provides an ambitious artistic programme focused on the concept of cultural diversity, with key events. A framework agreement was signed in Paris in 2009 by the two Foreign Ministers, initiating cooperation between French and Singaporean museums, amongst other things. The jubilee celebrations of our bilateral relations also create a context conducive to the positioning of French institutions on the Singaporean scene, including in the museums sector. In November 2015, the National Art Gallery, designed by the French architect Jean-François Milou, opened its doors, hosting its first temporary “Reframing Modernism”exhibition in 2016 in collaboration with the Pompidou Centre.

In 2015, France and Singapore decided to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their diplomatic relations by organizing a Singaporean cultural festival in France (Singapour en France, le festival), which was inaugurated at the Palais de Tokyo in April 2015, while its counterpart, Voilah !, French Festival Singapore, was organized by our embassy and inaugurated on 4 May 2015 in Singapore. The Singapore festival in France was organized by the Singaporean National Heritage Board and National Arts Council, along with the Institut Français, and showcased contemporary Singaporean culture through more than 30 events across France.

Sporting cooperation is also promising, with the opening in June 2014 of SportsHub, a 25-year public-private partnership by Dragages, as well as a protocol signed in 2013 between the Singapore Football Association and the French Football Federation.

Other cooperation

Defence cooperation is central to our bilateral relationship. Security is a priority for Singapore, to which it dedicates 23% of its spending (USD 13.1 billion, increasing by 5.7% versus 2014). Singapore’s strategic position at the opening of the Strait of Malacca makes it a key military and industrial partner in a region that is traditionally under American influence.

Our defence relations are excellent, and focused around a strategy dialogue organized by the Strategic Affairs Delegation, military cooperation led by the Armed Forces Joint Chief of Staff, and an armament committee organized by the Directorate-General for Armament.

In 2016, the French Minister of Defence visited Singapore for the fourth time in order to take part in the Shangri-La Dialogue on security issues in Asia.

An air squadron has been stationed permanently in Cazaux (Gironde Department, France) for initial pilot training since 1999. The Air Force and Navy regularly participate in joint exercises. French battleships regularly stop in Singapore.

In 2009, France posted a liaison officer to the Singaporean Navy’s Information Fusion Centre (IFC), a key centre for regional maritime security; another is posted to the Regional HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) Coordination Centre, which was opened in Singapore on 12 December 2014.

Updated: 17 January 2017

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