Singapore good springboard into Asia for Mexican companies: Lim Hng Kiang

Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang gives a speech at the Mexico-Singapore Business Forum at a hotel in Mexico City, on June 9, 2016.
Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang gives a speech at the Mexico-Singapore Business Forum at a hotel in Mexico City, on June 9, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY - Mexican companies have been encouraged to set up shop in Singapore and use the Republic's strategic location as a springboard to other regions in Asia.

"We are well connected to China and India, and also to our immediate neighbours in South-east Asia. From Singapore, you can reach half the world's population within a seven-hour radius," Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang said, adding that he would be happy to host government or private sector in Singapore when they visit.

Mr Lim, who is in Mexico City with 18 Singapore companies on a business mission, was speaking here on Thursday (June 9) afternoon (Friday morning in Singapore) at a Mexico-Singapore Business Forum at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The forum was organised by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment, and Technology (COMCE).

Mr Lim's Mexican counterpart, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, said he hopes to see trade levels between the two countries raised.

Mr Guajardo said while Mexico is Singapore's second-largest trading partner in Latin America, imports from Mexico into Singapore made up less than 1 per cent of total imports in Singapore. Likewise, imports from Singapore into Mexico accounted for no more than 0.5 per cent of total imports in Mexico.

Mr Lim agreed.

"Although trade between Mexico and Singapore has almost doubled from 10 years ago, it is still at a very modest level. And there are opportunities for us to raise the level of trade and investment between our countries," he said.

Already, Singapore is beginning to do so, he said.

There are about 40 Singapore companies with a presence in Mexico and they come from diverse sectors including oil and gas, urban infrastructure, and hospitality.

Beyond private sector collaboration, the Mexican and Singapore governments are also taking steps to boost economic and trade links, he said.

Trade agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its Mexican counterpart, ProMexico, at the forum on Thursday, as a commitment from both sides to identify opportunities for collaboration to promote trade and investment.

IE Singapore is scheduled to ink another MOU with the Secretariat of Economic Development of Mexico City on Friday (Saturday morning in Singapore). This MOU will promote collaborations across areas such as urban planning, innovation and research, and water and waste treatment.

At the business forum, the SBF also renewed an existing MOU with COMCE to promote partnership between Singapore and Mexican companies.

Ms Susan Chong, chief executive of customised packaging company Greenpac, who is the mission leader for SBF's business delegates, told reporters that Mexico serves as a base to support the United States market, and is a good gateway into Latin America.

"You can use Mexico as a hub to build your base, and from there you can expand into Latin America," she said.

Greenpac hopes to establish an office in Mexico in two years' time, she added, to enter the Latin America market and serve existing customers in the US.

The business mission is here in conjunction with President Tony Tan Keng Yam's first state visit to Mexico. He joined the business representatives for a lunch after the forum.

Earlier here on Thursday (June 9), Dr Tan laid a wreath at the Altar de la Patria in the city's Chapultepec Park. The monument of six giant columns commemorates the bravery of six Mexican teenage cadets who died in 1847 while protecting the Chapultepec Castle from US forces during the Mexican-American war.

Dr Tan was welcomed with a gun salute by the military's honour guards, while the military band played the national anthems of both Mexico and Singapore.

Dr Tan also visited the Templo Mayor Museum, once a main temple of the Aztecs in the capital city of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.