New Zealand Governor-General to begin Singapore state visit Monday

New Zealand's Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae (pictured) is in Singapore for a three-day state visit beginning on Monday. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - New Zealand's Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae is in Singapore for a three-day state visit beginning Monday.

His visit, at the invitation of President Tony Tan Keng Yam, marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries and underscores their close and longstanding relationship.

Mr Mateparae has a lunch meeting on Monday with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

On Tuesday morning, the Governor-General and his wife, Lady Janine Mateparae, will visit the Botanic Gardens where an orchid will be named after the couple.

This will be followed by a welcome ceremony at the Istana after which Mr Mateparae will have separate meetings with Dr Tan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The President and his wife will host a state banquet in his honour in the evening.

Singapore and New Zealand, which share common characteristics of being small and open economies, share a long and familial relationship.

New Zealand not only was one of the first countries to recognise Singapore's independence but was also the first country to sign a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Singapore which came into effect in 2001.

There are some 5,400 Singapore-born residents living in New Zealand, while close to 4,000 New Zealanders live in Singapore.

Earlier this year, New Zealand was one of two countries, the other being India, that flew its flags at half-mast to mark the passing of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on March 23. The New Zealand Parliament also passed a motion to mourn the passing of Mr Lee, whose funeral Mr Mateparae attended.

The meeting with Dr Ng on Monday aims to reaffirm defence relations, a key aspect of the two countries' bilateral relations.

As members of the Five-Power Defence Arrangements, New Zealand and Singapore share close defence ties, partnering each other in missions in East Timor and Afghanistan.

New Zealand also provides unilateral military training facilities to Singapore. The Singapore Armed Forces has conducted annual exercises in Waiouru since 1997.

The two countries also share strong trade relations, with bilateral trade growing by 16 per cent last year to reach S$3.95 billion.

Singapore is New Zealand's biggest trading partner in Asean and was the fifth-largest investor in New Zealand last year.

During his visit, Mr Mateparae will be accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on a tour of Singapore's first eco-friendly housing project, the Treelodge@Punggol.

He will meet Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital to view ongoing research collaboration between Singapore and New Zealand in nutrition.

Accompanying Mr Mateparaehim are officials from the New Zealand Government House and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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