SINGAPORE - When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited the Danish capital of Copenhagen in 2009 for a climate change conference, he was struck by the sight of people cycling after sunset in the depths of a freezing winter.
"I concluded that if the Danes could cycle in winter, Singaporeans must be able to do so in the tropics," said PM Lee on Thursday (Nov 30) at a dinner he hosted for Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen at the Istana.
The Danish PM is on his first official visit to Singapore.
Singapore is now working hard to promote cycling as a mode of transport and can learn from Denmark in this area, said PM Lee in his toast speech.
Denmark and Singapore have plenty to learn from each other as they face common challenges, he added.
These challenges include an ageing population, a shrinking workforce, keeping development sustainable and preparing the economy for the future.
Both countries are also keen to use technology to improve their people's lives, said PM Lee, recounting discussions he had with Mr Rasmussen earlier in the day.
PM Lee welcomed how Singaporean and Danish research institutes and officials are stepping up cooperation in technology and research in sustainable development, healthcare and urban transport.
Though geographically far apart, both countries have a long-standing bilateral relationship and are "natural partners in many areas", said PM Lee.
For instance, both are maritime nations and regional shipping hubs. Four of Denmark's five leading shipping groups use Singapore as their base in Asia.
The two countries also cooperate to promote the use of technology in shipping, including pushing for e-certificates to replace paper documentation.
Both countries also have open economies that rely highly on trade, and therefore share the same views on the importance of globalisation and international trade.
Singapore's trade with Denmark is worth close to $900 million a year, while Denmark has about $14 billion of investment in Singapore.
Said PM Lee: "I hope both sides will continue to explore new areas of cooperation, and new projects will grow from our partnership and benefit our future generations."
Mr Rasmussen similarly felt Singapore and Denmark have much in common, calling both "small in numbers, but big in vision".
He noted that several hundred students and many businesses and delegations from Denmark visit Singapore every year, and vice versa.
"I believe that sharing knowledge across borders is the key to development. As small maritime nations, we have always understood that we need to look beyond our borders," he said.
More than 350 Danish companies are registered in Singapore, and Mr Rasmussen met some members of the business community at the Danish Seaman's Church near Mount Faber in the afternoon.
He listed smart city solutions, maritime innovation and fintech as new business areas the two countries can work together in.
"Singapore is a valuable partner for Denmark and it is my strong belief and hope that our two nations will continue to further develop our cooperation," he said.