SINGAPORE - Singapore is entering a new phase where, as its economy matures, it expects "slower but qualitatively better growth", said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang on Monday.
Addressing French businessmen in Paris, he said Singapore continues to welcome talent and investments, while being mindful of its physical and social constraints.
"We will maintain a pro-business environment which helps companies succeed in Singapore," he added.
"We may not be the cheapest place to do business, but we stand firmly on a solid foundation built on efficiency, predictability and high standards of excellence."
The minister was speaking at a seminar on linking Asia and Europe through trade and investment, organised by the French Agency for International Business Development (UbiFrance) and the Singapore Business Federation.
Mr Lim, who is part of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's delegation to France, noted that Singapore has the most extensive network of free trade agreements (FTAs) in Asia, and will continue to expand this network.
The FTAs provide companies with greater market connectivity, one example being the landmark European Union-Singapore FTA, he noted.
Its legal text was recently initialled by both sides and now awaits ratification.
The FTA will give consumers more choices and, notably, "bring France even closer to the hearts of the average Singaporean", said Mr Lim.
Currently, agri-food products and consumer goods make up more than a quarter of French exports to Singapore.
"This is no surprise since France is well-known for its gourmet food, and eating happens to be one of Singaporeans' favourite pastimes," he said.
Singaporeans can already experience the different facets of French culinary culture when they step into French Michelin chef Guy Savoy's restaurant in Singapore, or when they buy a brioche from French artisan baker Éric Kayser, the minister noted.
Protection of intellectual property rights for uniquely French food products will be further enhanced under the pact.
"This will strengthen the market position of distinctively French gourmet products, especially well-known cheeses, cured meats and wines," Mr Lim said.
In addition, the reduction of import duties will improve market access and result in cost savings for companies.
The FTA also tackles significant non-tariff barriers to trade, with a focus on the automotive, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and electronics industries.
Singapore is France's largest trading partner in South-east Asia and third-largest in Asia, after China and Japan, while France is Singapore's second-largest trading partner in the EU after Germany.
Last year, the Republic's bilateral trade with France reached an all-time high of €11.3 billion (S$19.3 billion).
But Singapore's investments in France remain modest, Mr Lim said, and urged for more to be achieved with the Singapore businessmen who accompanied him.
They come from a diverse range of sectors, including logistics, urban solutions, health and wellness as well as architectural services.
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