Singapore and Mexico 'can build on strong ties'

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (right) and Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam participate in a press meeting at the Patio de Honor in the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on June 10.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (right) and Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam participate in a press meeting at the Patio de Honor in the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on June 10. PHOTO: EPA

Both countries can help their two regions grow closer, says President Tan

The strong bilateral relationship between Singapore and Mexico can be the foundation for both countries to strengthen their partnership on several levels, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Saturday (yesterday, Singapore time) as he wrapped up his five-day state visit to the Latin American country.

On the broadest level, both countries can contribute to boosting relations between the two big regions they are in, he said.

Dr Tan said Mexico is a good gateway for Singapore to grow its presence in Latin America, while Singapore is a springboard for Mexico to enter Asia.

As both countries belong to regional alliances - Singapore is part of Asean while Mexico is a member of the four-country Pacific Alliance - strong ties between both sides will help strengthen relations between the two groupings that account for 800 million people, he said.

But most crucial of all is the bilateral relationship between Singapore and Mexico, said Dr Tan, adding that the memorandums of understanding (MOU) signed during this visit will boost partnership.

A total of six MOUs, most at the government level aimed at promoting trade and investment, were signed during his visit.

"The MOUs will set the stage for these developments, but it doesn't mean they will come automatically. We will have to build on them," he said.

He noted that his state visit has raised the visibility of Singapore in Mexico, but Singapore ministries, agencies and businesses will have to actively seek out opportunities.

There are now 41 Singapore firms operating in Mexico, and 81 Mexican firms operating in Singapore.

Dr Tan said the energy and economic reforms of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration could change that. When implemented, these reforms will "make Mexico more open, comprehensive, attractive to companies and more international", he said.

He also pledged Singapore's help for Mexican companies to expand in Asia.

"We want to encourage more Mexican companies to come to Singapore... I think it's a two-way street," he said.

He added that with Mexico opening up, there will be more opportunities for Singapore. For instance, Mexico is looking to develop its port and airport, areas in which Singapore has expertise.

During the trip, Dr Tan and Mr Pena Nieto also discussed the Trans- Pacific Partnership, which Singapore and Mexico are members of. When ratified, it will help to boost trade between both countries.

Dr Tan, who visited several museums including the National History Museum during his trip, said he also hoped to encourage more cultural exchanges between both countries.

He said, for instance, that Singapore's budding film industry can learn from Mexico's film industry, citing how Mexican films have an international presence.

He added that Singaporeans are also learning Spanish.

"I hope more Singapore students will come to Mexico," he said.

Dr Tan, who met Mr Pena Nieto on Thursday, has invited him to visit Singapore. The Mexican President's visit would go some way in strengthening Mexico's presence in the city-state and raise awareness of the country among Singaporeans, he added.

Dr Tan left Mexico for Singapore on Saturday evening (yesterday morning, Singapore time).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore and Mexico 'can build on strong ties''. Print Edition | Subscribe