This week in 11965: A look back at the events that shaped Singapore 50 years ago

Kennedy takes on Vietnam war with S’pore students

American Senator Edward Kennedy, 33, visited Singapore the same week that a trade mission from the United States came to town to explore long-term trade links with the Republic.

The senator, brother of the late US President John F. Kennedy, visited the Jurong Industrial Complex and met Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

He also had a discussion with student leaders fromthe University of Singapore,NanyangUniversity,Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann College. The students fired a series of questions about US foreign policy, including questions about the US involvement in the Vietnam War, at the senator.

He told reporters later: “We had a frank, open discussion on US foreign policy. Some of the students showed certain reservations over American policy on Vietnam.”

He said he wanted to talk to students as he felt that they, together with government leaders and workers, would play a paramount role in the development of Singapore.

On the Jurong Industrial Complex, he said: “Jurong is a tribute to your economy... I am impressed by the social conditions here and the provisions and facilities provided for your workers.”

Mr Kennedy also visited Malaysia on the same trip. He went on to become one of the longest-serving US senators, He died in 2009, aged 77.

His visit almost coincided with that of a seven-man US trade mission which arrived in Singapore a few days later to explore business opportunities.

Said Mr Roy Gootenberg, the mission’s leader and director of the trade missions division of the US Department of Commerce: “We will study the prospects of joint ventures between American and Singapore industrialists, and also to see how we can build up the two-way trade and strengthen the visibility of Singapore.”

However, he said that many American businessmen were “perplexed” over Singapore’s split with Malaysia and its economic implications.

His group was on a fact-finding mission,and would share their findings in US business circles when they returned, he added.
 
The group met officials from the Economic Development Board, as well as Finance Minister Lim Kim San. “He showed strong enthusiasm over the prospect of American firms embarking on joint ventures here, and the need to find markets in the United States and elsewhere for Singapore goods,” said MrGootenberg.

At the end of his visit, Mr Gootenberg said he was optimistic about a flow of US capital into Singapore, saying the investment climate here wasoneof the best inthe world.

He said his group had received about 25 feasible joint venture proposals from local businessmen, covering goods from reptile skins and essential oils to machine tools..

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'Kennedy takes on Vietnam war with S’pore students'. Print Edition | Subscribe