Forum: Singapore-France strategic partnership will continue to thrive

I am ending a very fruitful and rewarding posting to Singapore. On Thursday, I had the privilege of flying in Singapore's airspace on board a Rafale during a joint exercise between the French Air Force and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

I was reminded of a visit, more than five years ago, to the French airbase in Cazaux when I boarded an M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer with an RSAF pilot. Singaporean pilots have been training there for the past 24 years.

I also recalled vividly the flypast over the Champs-Elysees of an M-346 plane from the same squadron in 2018 when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest of honour at France's National Day celebrations.

These flights epitomise the trust between our two countries, one built on longstanding and robust defence and security partnerships.

France, as an Indo-Pacific nation, contributes to the region's stability. The current deployment of a French Air Force detachment for Mission Pegase demonstrates France's ability to project autonomously its air power.

It also reflects our commitment to freedom of flight across the globe and our willingness to increase our inter-operability with key partners such as Singapore, as demonstrated by the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement signed by our armed forces last June. Together, we aim to preserve our strategic autonomy in a region facing geopolitical changes and rising tensions.

France remains committed to Asean as a central role player in the region. During its presidency of the Council of the European Union, France advocated for the union to become a security provider in the Indo-Pacific, regarding maritime security more specifically.

Our trust is also built on a shared vision of an international order based on multilateral cooperation and respect for all sovereignty.

France commends Singapore for its strong stand and sanctions against Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine. It demonstrates that the war is not simply a European matter, and that what is at stake is the commitment to international law and the UN Charter.

Both France and Singapore actively support international initiatives in areas such as cyber security, artificial intelligence, vaccine access and protection of biodiversity.

Amid geopolitical tensions and growing rivalry between the United States and China, France reaffirms its independence and willingness to cooperate with others in facing common challenges.

While France shares common values and interests with the US, it means we are allied but not necessarily aligned. And while France considers China a systemic rival, it will engage China on common challenges such as climate change.

As a balancing power, France will continue to strengthen ties with regional partners such as Singapore.

Last, but not least, France's economic, scientific and entrepreneurial presence in Singapore attests to our bonds of trust. As a regional hub, Singapore has attracted over 1,000 subsidiaries and investments worth over €12 billion (S$16.9 billion). The France-Singapore Digital and Green Partnership - a platform to nurture joint projects - will also benefit from the continuum built between research, the corporate world and the vibrant French tech community in various sectors of innovation.

For all these reasons, I am confident as I prepare to conclude my tenure in Singapore that our strategic partnership will continue to thrive and is more essential than ever.

Marc Abensour

French Ambassador to Singapore

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