French President Francois Hollande will arrive on Sunday for state visit

While in Singapore, Mr Hollande will receive an official welcome at the Istana.
While in Singapore, Mr Hollande will receive an official welcome at the Istana. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - French President Francois Hollande arrives in Singapore on Sunday (March 26) for a two-day state visit, the first by a sitting president of France.

He will focus on strengthening bilateral cooperation in innovation, which is a priority area in the growth strategies of both countries, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement on Saturday.

Mr Hollande's trip reciprocates the state visit President Tony Tan Keng Yam made to France in 2015, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, and "will reaffirm the excellent and multifaceted relations between Singapore and France", said the MFA.

The Singapore-French relationship is strong, and was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2013.

Last year, more than 100,000 Singaporean tourists visited France and over 150,000 French tourists came to Singapore.

While in Singapore, Mr Hollande will receive an official welcome at the Istana. He will then call on Dr Tan and be hosted to a state banquet on Sunday night.

On Monday, he will meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who will host him to lunch.

The French leader will also deliver the 40th Singapore Lecture on how France and Singapore can be strategic partners in a fast-changing world. The lecture series is meant for world leaders to give their insights on issues of regional significance.

During the trip, Mr Hollande and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan will launch a joint venture between French shipping giant CMA CGM and port operator PSA, to operate four mega container berths at Pasir Panjang Terminal.

Economic ties are robust between both countries, and France was Singapore's second largest trading partner in the European Union (EU) last year (2016), with bilateral trade valued at $16 billion.

France is also Singapore's sixth largest EU investor, with total foreign direct investment at about $14.8 billion as of the end of 2015.

Mr Hollande is also slated to speak at the Singapore-France Innovation Forum, where industry players from both countries will discuss issues involving innovation sectors such as smart cities, health, and financial technology.

It is organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the French embassy.

Mr Hollande will be accompanied by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie Jean-Marie Le Guen, and Minister of State for the Industry, Digital Sector and Innovation Christophe Sirugue.

His delegation also includes senior officials and businessmen.

charyong@sph.com.sg