Singapore, Poland pledge to bolster links

PM Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk and wife Malgorzata Tusk at the welcome ceremony at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland on Thursday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk on Thursday pledged to explore more ways in which their countries can work together.

At a joint press conference, PM Lee, who is on his first official visit to Poland, said he had a very good meeting with Mr Tusk.

The European Union-Singapore free trade agreement, which is awaiting ratification, will benefit Poland, he added.

Among other things, it will make it easier for Polish exporters of meat and automobile parts to ship their goods to Singapore.

Polish businesses will also gain stronger protection of geographical indications for spirits such as Polish Vodka.

Mr Tusk recalled his visit to Singapore in November last year and said the Republic was "one of the most desired partners" when it comes to fields like innovation.

Earlier, Mr Lee was welcomed at a ceremony at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland, a stately building in a wide, tree- lined street. He and Mr Tusk held bilateral talks, followed by lunch.

To underline both countries' commitment to strengthen links, they also witnessed a signing ceremony to renew a 2005 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the Polish National Centre for Research and Development. Among other things, it allows for joint research and exchanges of scientists.

Mr Lee also signed the condolence book of former Polish prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who died on Monday.

In a programme-packed day, he also called on Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and met the leaders of the Polish Parliament's Lower and Upper Houses, Marshal Ewa Kopacz and Marshal Bogdan Borusewicz, respectively.

On Wednesday, Mr Lee, who is here with a business delegation, told a gathering of Polish and Singapore businessmen that both countries were well placed to work together for mutual benefit.

"Singapore can be a gateway for Polish companies in Asia, just as Poland can be one gateway for Singapore companies looking at Europe, in particular central and Eastern Europe," he said.

Speaking at the Poland-Singapore Business Forum organised by the Polish Agency for Foreign Investment and the Singapore Business Federation, he noted that Poland is regarded as one of Europe's bright lights.

Since the end of communism in 1989, it has been completely transformed and is one of Europe's fastest growing economies.

Last year, Poland was Singapore's 18th largest trading partner in the European Union. Trade between the two countries totalled about $563 million, with imports from Poland valued at $255 million and exports to Poland at $307 million.

As of end 2011, the total stock of Singapore's direct investment into Poland was about $25.8 million. As of end 2010 - the year with the most recent data available - Poland was Singapore's 58th largest foreign investor, and Singapore's total foreign direct investment stock from Poland was $103 million.

Mr Lee noted that while progress has been made on trade and investment, "the level we are at is far from the potential we could be", and that the numbers were a "good base we can grow".

He left for the city of Gdansk in the evening.

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