Mexico provides opportunities for Singapore as its economy opens up: President Tony Tan

Tony Tan Keng Yam (left) and his Mexican counterpart President Enrique Pena Nieto participate in a press meeting at the Patio de Honor in the National Palace in Mexico City. PHOTO: EPA

MEXICO CITY - Partnership between Singapore and Mexico - both geographically strategic Pacific Rim nations - goes beyond just bilateral ties, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said on Saturday here (Sunday early morning, Singapore time), as he wrapped up his five-day state visit to the Latin American country.

Mexico serves as a good gateway for Singapore to boost its presence in Latin America, while Singapore is a springboard for Mexico to enter Asia, he said.

If companies can make headway into Mexico, they will be well-placed to enter the Latin American market, said Dr Tan at the end of his visit, the first by a Singapore head of state.

"We do not have a strong presence here in Latin America. There is vast, untapped potential. I think there is space for companies to try and establish themselves here in Mexico," he said.

As Mexico and Singapore both belong to regional alliances - Singapore is part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations while Mexico is a member of the four-country Pacific Alliance - strong ties between the two countries will also help build a relationship between Asean and Pacific Alliance.

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

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

One of them between trade agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore and its Mexican counterpart ProMexico will see the two countries sharing information to promote and facilitate trade.

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

The state visit has raised the visibility of Singapore to the Mexican public and authorities, but Singapore ministries, agencies, and business companies will have to search out opportunities, he added.

There are now 41 Singapore businesses here, a number Dr Tan acknowledged was small for a country as big as Mexico.

He cited a few reasons:

  • Singaporeans generally do not know much about Mexico;
  • It is also only natural for companies to enter markets they are nearer to and more familiar with, as this makes operations easier;
  • The Mexican government of the past was also less open to foreign investments, which made for a more challenging environment for businesses.

"It was difficult to operate in Mexico for many years, that's why our companies were not able to find many opportunities," he said.

But the energy and economy reforms by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration could change that. Whenimplemented, these reforms will "make Mexico more open, comprehensive, attractive to companies, and more international".

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Singapore and Mexico are members of, will help boost trade between both countries when it is ratified.

Mexico's opening will provide Singapore with more opportunities to tap on, said Dr Tan.

For instance, Mexico is looking to develop their port and airport, both Singapore's expert areas.

Dr Tan, who met with President Pena Nieto on Thursday, has invited him to visit Singapore.

The Mexican President's visit will 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 (Sunday morning, Singapore time).

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said IE Singapore signed an MOU with Mexico City's Secretariat of Economic Development. This is incorrect. The MOU was between IE Singapore and ProMexico. We are sorry for the error.

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