Economic ties between Singapore and Germany go as far back as the 1840s when Hamburg native Valentin Lorenz-Meyer set up Behn, Meyer & Co, the first German trading company in Singapore, and they continue to flourish, President Halimah Yacob said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a state banquet hosted by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at his official residence, Madam Halimah noted that Valentin’s great-great grandson Dirk – who was present – is not only a member of the board of present-day Behn Meyer Holding, but also Singapore’s honorary consul-general in Hamburg. So was his late father, Mr Dieter Lorenz-Meyer.
“German investors have long made meaningful contributions to Singapore,” said Madam Halimah, who is on a five-day state visit.
She noted that Siemens established a Technical Bureau in Singapore as early as 1908, and Rollei set up a camera factory in 1971.
“Indeed, one of the objectives of my visit is to thank German companies for their many important contributions to Singapore’s development and their integral role in fostering excellent economic ties between Singapore and Germany,” she added.
Germany is Singapore’s largest European Union trading partner, making up a fifth of the Republic’s total trade with the EU.
More than 1,800 German companies are based in Singapore, with German direct investments standing at €14.3 billion (S$21.5 billion).
And the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement(FTA), which recently came into force, will further deepen these considerable ties, said Madam Halimah.
The FTA, as well as both countries’ engagement in climate policy, symbolises their commitment to openness and multilateralism and the potential of close relations, noted Dr Steinmeier in his speech.
He lauded Singapore as a young country that has undergone an impressive transformation and “shows what human ambition and inventiveness can achieve”.
“The increasing number of Germans heading off for Singapore nowadays are not only tourists in search of the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ they read about in Kevin Kwan’s novel,” he said. “Rather, they go because they want to research or study at one of your renowned universities… they want to do business, they want to use Singapore as a hub to access the entire region.
“As different as our countries are in many respects, Singapore is an inspiration to many Germans as a laboratory of the modern age.”
Dr Steinmeier also cited Madam Halimah’s commitment to overcoming social divides and fostering understanding among people from different backgrounds and cultures, adding that both countries depend on the success of unity in diversity.
Madam Halimah noted that beyond economics, both countries work closely in defence and education, and thanked the German government for allowing the Singapore Armed Forces to train in the state of Saxony and the city of Kiel.
“In the past two decades, Singapore students have also benefited greatly from Germany’s renowned dual education system,” she added, noting that two officers in her delegation were graduates of the Technical University of Munich, one of the top German universities. It set up a campus in Singapore in 2002, the first overseas campus of a German university.
Yesterday, Madam Halimah attended a networking tea with Singapore companies in Germany before flying to Frankfurt for the next leg of her visit.