France strengthens its collaboration with Singapore in biomedical innovations

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France reconfirmed its commitment to the free trade agreement of European Union with Singapore during French President Francois Hollande visit on Monday. French President Hollande and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in innovation through greater collaboration in areas such as space technology, health and biomedical sciences.

“To build on the Strategic Partnership, and in recognition of the fact that innovation drives the transformation of their respective economies and societies for the benefit of their citizens, President Hollande and Prime Minister Lee agreed to intensify cooperation on innovation between the two countries,” the statement said.

2018 will also be declared as the France-Singapore Year of Innovation to profile ongoing collaborations, and events will be held in both countries, either jointly or separately, to encourage reflection on how they could cooperate to attain their innovation goals.

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French and Singaporean agencies, enterprises, public and private research organisations, as well as institutions of higher learning are already actively engaged in several collaborative projects involving not only cutting-edge science and advanced engineering, but also in transport solutions, tools for urban management, nuclear safety and even satellite technology.

Mr Hollande is in Singapore for a two-day state visit. It is the first state visit to the Republic by a sitting president of the European country.

Singapore and France signed a Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership in October 2012, and both sides enjoy good cooperation across a wide spectrum of areas, including defence, cybersecurity as well as in the cultural sectors.

In his opening remarks at the Monday morning’s innovation forum, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that at a time when the world continues to face heightened uncertainty, and as technological disruptions threaten to upend a whole range of industries, nations may be tempted to question the value of remaining open to the world.

“This is not an option for Singapore,” he said.

“Like France, we remain committed to international cooperation and growing trade, investment, R&D, defence and educational relationships with other countries, so that we can tap on each other’s strengths to create a better future for our people.”

On Sunday President Tony Tan Keng Yam called France “a reliable friend, that is more important than ever.”

“Our Strategic Partnership (signed in 2012) is a compact of shared values which represent our common vision of a world embracing openness, multilateralism, globalisation and the rule of law,” said Dr Tan.

On his part, Mr Hollande said France considers Singapore not only as an economic partner, but also as a friend.

“In this geopolitical environment of isolation, nationalism and protectionism, we have to lead by example and make our bilateral partnership not only strong and dynamic, but to show the way for opening confidence in international trade,’’ Mr Hollande said.

Dr Tan also said the ratification of the European Union (EU)-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will “reinforce the joint belief of Singapore and France that free and open trade will bring tangible benefits to our peoples”.

Singapore and the EU concluded an FTA in December 2012, after three years of talks. Under the FTA, the EU will eliminate tariffs on all imports from Singapore over five years, while Singapore will grant duty-free access for all imports from the EU. The FTA has yet to be ratified by all the EU.

Mr Hollande’s trip reciprocates Dr Tan’s state visit to France in May 2015, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Bilateral ties are multifaceted, with cooperation in trade, defence, innovation and culture among other areas.

France was Singapore’s second-largest trading partner in the EU in 2016, and Singapore’s sixth-largest investor from the EU. There are more than 1,800 French enterprises in Singapore, and some 15,000 French nationals make Singapore their second home, said Dr Tan.

He also said the Republic “deeply appreciates France’s strong support for the RSAF’s fighter pilot training in Cazaux, which will mark its 20th anniversary next year”.

Dr Tan and Mr Hollande reaffirmed excellent bilateral ties, based on strong trust between both countries, said a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday evening.

“They took stock of the broad-based bilateral cooperation between both countries in areas such as trade, defence, culture, security, as well as education and research,” the statement said.

Mr Hollande will also visit Malaysia and Indonesia after Singapore.

(Today, AP, pht)

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