German companies contributed to Singapore's development: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob attended a state banquet held in her honour at the Schloss Bellevue in Berlin, on Dec 10, 2019. She was hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (second from left). With them are their spouses Ms Elke Budenberger (left) and Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee. PHOTO: MCI

BERLIN - Economic ties between Singapore and Germany go as far back as the 1840s when Hamburg native Valentin Lorenz-Meyer decided to set up the first German trading company in Singapore, and they have continued to flourish since, said President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday (Dec 10).

Speaking at a state banquet in Berlin hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Madam Halimah noted that Valentin's great-great grandson Dirk - who was present - is not only a member of the board of the present-day Behn Meyer Holding AG, but also Singapore's honorary consul-general in Hamburg.

"German investors have long made meaningful contributions to Singapore," said Madam Halimah, who is in Germany for a five-day state visit that began on Monday. She is accompanied by her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee.

The state banquet was held at the Schloss Bellevue, Dr Steinmeier's official residence.

"Indeed, one of the objectives of my visit is to thank German companies for their many important contributions to Singapore's development and their integral role in fostering excellent economic ties between Singapore and Germany," Madam Halimah said.

Germany is Singapore's largest European Union trading partner, making up a fifth of Singapore's total trade with the EU.

More than 1,800 German companies are based in Singapore, with German direct investments standing at €14.3 billion (S$21.5 billion).

The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which recently came into force, will further deepen these economic ties, Madam Halimah added.

Dr Steinmeier lauded Singapore as a young country which has undergone an impressive transformation.

"The increasing number of Germans heading off for Singapore nowadays are not only tourists in search of the 'Crazy Rich Asians' they read about in Kevin Kwan's novel," he said.

"Rather, they go because they want to research or study at one of your renowned universities... They go because they want to do business, because they want to use Singapore as a hub to access the entire region. As different as our countries are in many respects, Singapore is an inspiration to many Germans as a laboratory of the modern age."

Madam Halimah also drew attention to the two countries' close collaboration in the areas of defence and education, thanking the German government for allowing the Singapore Armed Forces to train in the state of Saxony and the city of Kiel.

"In the past two decades, Singapore students have also benefited greatly from Germany's renowned dual education system. In fact, two officers in my delegation were graduates of the Technical University of Munich (TUM)," she said.

The TUM is one of the top universities in Germany and Europe. It set up a campus in Singapore in 2002, which was the first overseas campus of a German university.

A total of six memoranda of understanding will be signed during the state visit between the Institute of Technical Education and various German companies and education providers.

Madam Halimah will attend a networking tea with Singapore companies in Germany on Wednesday before flying to Frankfurt for the next leg of her visit.

She will visit German companies in Frankfurt and Heidelberg, and meet a group of overseas Singaporeans and students from the Institute of Technical Education.

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