President Tony Tan receives ceremonial welcome, holds talks with Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto

President Tony Tan (right) inspecting the guard of honour at the Palacio Nacional with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
President Tony Tan (right) inspecting the guard of honour at the Palacio Nacional with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

MEXICO CITY - President Tony Tan Keng Yam received a ceremonial welcome as he arrived at the national palace to meet and hold discussions with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto here on Friday afternoon (early Saturday morning in Singapore).

During the ceremony at the Palacio Nacional, located in the historic centre of the city, the military band played the national anthems of Mexico and Singapore and Dr Tan was then invited to inspect the military guard of honour, who stood regal in the parade square.

Dr Tan was on the fourth day of his stay in Mexico. It is the first time a Singapore president is visiting a Latin American country on a state visit.

During their talks, both leaders discussed issues ranging from developments in Singapore and Mexico to the progress in bilateral relations - which were first established just over 40 years ago.

Dr Tan and Mr Pena Nieto noted there were many opportunities to expand links in the area of politics, the economy, education and culture.

Indeed, both leaders then witnessed the signing three Memorandums of Understanding (MOU).

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Education, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) inked agreements with their Mexican counterparts in the presence of the two presidents on Friday.

The MOU between AVA and Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food "will pave the way for enhanced cooperation in areas including agriculture science and technology, food security, and food safety," said Dr Tan.

Another agreement between the Singapore and Mexican foreign ministries will see both countries collaborating to provide training in developing countries, particularly in Latin American states, in areas such as urban development and water management.

The third MOU will enable both countries to exchange education information as well as academic staff, including with Singapore's teacher training institute, the National Institute of Education.

Other MOUs had been signed earlier during Dr Tan's state visit this week, including by the Singapore Business Federation and trade agency International Enterprise Singapore with their counterparts here.

The agreements promote trade and investment facilitation between Singapore and Mexico at both the private and public levels.

Dr Tan noted after the signing that the MOUs were the result of opportunities that had come about as both countries became more developed, especially with the economic and energy reforms Mexico has undertaken in the last three years.

"These reforms will make the Mexican economy more competitive and better prepared to deal with future challenges," he said.

"(They) have created opportunities for trade and investment and the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)will further increase opportunities."

Singapore and Mexico are among the 12 Pacific Rim nations that have signed the TPP, a multilateral trade agreement led by the United States. The pact will come into force only after it has been ratified by all 12 countries.

Dr Tan was then hosted to a state lunch by the Mexican President.

At the state lunch, Dr Tan spoke of his first official visit to Mexico was 25 years ago, when he accompanied then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who led a trade mission in Mexico in 1991.

Nothing the progress in bilateral relations, Dr Tan said: "Trade between Mexico and Singapore in 1991 was only US$118 million. It has since grown to US$3.3 billion (S$4.6 billion) last year, and Mexico has become Singapore's second-largest trading partner in Latin America."

Dr Tan later met Dr Miguel Angel Mancera, the head of government of Mexico City, at the Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento, or City Hall. There, he was presented the Key to Mexico City.

Dr Tan is scheduled to leave Mexico for Singapore on Saturday evening (Sunday morning, Singapore time).