LISBON - President Tony Tan Keng Yam brought his state visit to Portugal to an end by congratulating the European nation for the way it turned its economy around from a deep recession.
Dr Tan was generous in his praise at a state dinner at Lisbon's Palacio Nacional da Ajuda (Ajuda National Palace), telling the gathering: "I salute Portugal for its steadfast and courageous efforts to meet its economic challenges over the past three years, and the Portuguese people for their resilience in the face of difficult adjustments, which have paved the way for exiting the Economic Adjustment Programme soon."
Portugal's economy returned to growth last year after almost three years of recession and is projected to grow 1.2 per cent this year, he noted.
That progress was behind a Portuguese government decision last Sunday to conclude its financial assistance programme with the European Union and International Monetary Fund without requesting any further external financial aid.
The European Commission has also recognised Portugal as one of only a few EU members that recorded total factor productivity growth between 2008 and last year, which, as Dr Tan noted, is a clear measure of growing competitiveness.
But he added: "The global economic recovery will present opportunities only if we guard against protectionism.
"Small countries like Portugal and Singapore need to maintain close links and continue to push for free trade and open markets, and further economic cooperation."
Dr Tan said he hoped those links would strengthen, both politically and in terms of the economic collaboration between the two nations - a sentiment echoed by Portuguese President Cavaco Silva.
"Portugal regards Singapore as a major gateway to Asia. Portuguese companies in Singapore have sought, successfully, to explore business opportunities in South-east Asia, taking advantage of the geographic centrality of Singapore and the benefits of its model of economic development," said Mr Silva.
At the political level, meanwhile, "contacts have never been as intense and fruitful as today", he added.
Dr Tan noted that he was joined on his trip by a delegation led by the Singapore Business Federation, adding that the Singapore-Portugal Business Forum they attended yesterday could help raise awareness of mutually beneficial opportunities for collaboration and hopefully result in more business tie-ups.
The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, initialled last year and now pending ratification, will help to boost economic ties too, Dr Tan added.
"I thank Portugal for its support for an expeditious ratification of the agreement. We also look forward to Portugal's support for an ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement."
Dr Tan also noted that political ties have certainly been strengthening, with Portugal upgrading its embassy in Singapore last year to one headed by a full ambassador.
A Portugal-Singapore Friendship group was set up in the Portuguese Assembly in 2012 to provide a platform for closer inter-parliamentary relations between Portugal and Singapore.
The state dinner concluded Dr Tan's two-day visit to Portugal. He left for a five-day official visit to Switzerland yesterday.
This article was published on May 7 in The Straits Times.
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