In a world with fewer precedents and growing protectionism, one valuable resource that Singapore can offer is her reputation for competence and integrity, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to Mexico.
Such a resource gives Singapore a competitive advantage that has currency even across the Pacific Ocean, PM Lee said.
He added that Singapore is pursuing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Pacific Alliance countries of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru as such goodwill is worth developing.
FTA with some South American countries
Singapore has existing trade agreements with Chile, Mexico and Peru.
But the Pacific Alliance-Singapore FTA, PM Lee said, will build links with Colombia and pay a dividend.
The Pacific Alliance-Singapore FTA could be concluded this year, as more than two-thirds of the FTA text has been agreed.
The next round of negotiations slated to take place in Mexico in a few weeks will conclude the process.
Mexico and Singapore
PM Lee also said Mexico and Singapore are cosmopolitan with rich cultures today, as they had similar beginnings as trade hubs that drew immigrants seeking a better life.
In an address to the Mexican Senate, PM Lee elaborated on why Mexico and Singapore are similar.
He said the strategic location of Singapore, near the centre of Asia, and Mexico, near the centre of the Americas, is why both should be "pathfinders of trade and commerce".
Food shows influence
"Mexico City's renowned street food culture exemplifies this - your delicious tacos, quesadillas, tamales, empanadas and nachos bear influences from all over the world, including from Europe, Asia and Africa, and have travelled all over the world, carrying Mexican influence and soft power," he also said.
PM Lee said Singapore hopes to inscribe its hawker food in Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, similar to what Mexico did for its traditional cuisine in 2010.
He added that a more integrated Asia Pacific is in everyone's interest in a globalised world where countries cooperate extensively with one another.
What Prime Minister's Office said
Earlier in the day, PM Lee was hosted to lunch by Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard, together with a group of governors from the states of Queretaro, Durango, Guanajuato, Oaxaca and San Luis Potosi.
PM Lee said Mexico wants to collaborate with Singapore in areas such as logistics, urban planning and digital governance because Singapore is viewed as a reliable partner with a good reputation.
The Prime Minister's Office said PM Lee welcomed the growing cooperation with the Mexican states in the areas of infrastructure, education and master-planning.
PM Lee said: "(The governors) all want to bring in investments to develop their states, to link up with Asia, so I think there are opportunities for us to develop here in Mexico and the Pacific Alliance countries, (among which) there's a certain realisation of the need to work together and to look across the Pacific to Asia."
PMO also acknowledged that PM Lee's registered Singapore's interest in expanding cooperation.
You can watch the 11-minute speech here:
[Full transcript here]