Singapore companies will find it easier to do business in the Netherlands, after both countries pledged yesterday to improve access to their respective markets and grow opportunities for innovation.
Enterprise Singapore and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency signed a two-year agreement at a business forum in Rotterdam, on the third day of President Halimah Yacob's state visit to the country.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) will focus on areas such as healthcare, food technology, smart mobility and logistics.
Mr Png Cheong Boon, chief executive of Enterprise Singapore, said both parties "recognise the importance of innovation and partnership as important growth drivers for our enterprises".
The MOU aims to create more opportunities for Singapore and Dutch companies to "collaborate in the area of innovation and market access, thereby expanding each other's capabilities and markets in Europe and Asia", he added.
Both Singapore and the Netherlands are ranked among the top five most innovative economies in the world, according to the Global Innovation Index.
Several other agreements to boost cooperation in the areas of Customs and food science were also inked yesterday.
They include a plan to facilitate cargo clearance for imports and exports between both countries, as well as a Singapore Business Federation (SBF) agreement to improve economic cooperation and create more business opportunities between firms on both sides.
"(The Netherlands) are very much like us - a small country in a big region," said SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng, who led the Singapore business delegation.
"They are very enterprising; they are also quite careful... We find the mindsets quite similar."
Speaking at the business forum where the agreements were signed, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry Tan Wu Meng said both countries have benefited from an open, rules-based multilateral trading system, which has come under increasing strain from trade frictions.
"As talk about building walls gets louder, it's important that like-minded partners like us must continue building bridges that are stronger," he said.
Dr Tan added that trade pacts such as the European Union-Singapore free trade and investment protection agreements are an opportunity for all parties to "continue signalling our shared commitment to free and open trade".
Madam Halimah and Singapore officials also visited the Dutch seat of government in The Hague, where she spoke to the heads of the upper and lower chambers of Parliament - President of the Senate Ankie Broekers-Knol and Speaker of the House of Representatives Khadija Arib.
The Binnenhof, as the building complex is known, has served as the Dutch legislature for more than 500 years and is the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use today.
In introductory remarks at the meeting, Madam Halimah highlighted the recently signed free trade agreement between the EU and Singapore, which she hopes will serve as an "eventual pathfinder" to a similar pact between the EU and Asean.
"We encourage the Netherlands to continue using Singapore as a base to explore the South-east Asia region; a young, growing and dynamic market of over 620 million people," Madam Halimah said.
The President was also scheduled to meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte yesterday evening. She will visit the city of Eindhoven today.