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S'pore remains pro-business, welcomes investments: PM

Korean firms urged to use S'pore as base to expand to other markets in region
Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:00

SINGAPORE is committed to maintaining a pro-business climate that welcomes local investments as well as those from overseas, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking at a luncheon with South Korean business leaders yesterday, he made a strong pitch for Singapore as an attractive destination for companies to expand in.

Even as the country's society and economy are in transition mode in the face of a changing global landscape and new social needs, he said Singapore would continue to stay open to foreign investment and talent, while remaining mindful of its own physical and social constraints.

"Singapore is making steady progress. We are constructing a high-quality living environment for our people . . . we are integrating ourselves with the region and the global economy," said Mr Lee at the event hosted by the Korean International Trade Association (Kita), the country's largest business association.

Many of the other attendees at the lunch were from organisations such as the Korean Federation of Small Business, the Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and the Federation of Korean Industries.

Mr Lee urged South Korean companies to use Singapore as a base to reach out to other key markets in South-east Asia, South Asia and Australia.

He recalled how one South Korean businessman had earlier shared with him his experience of being engaged in Singapore for the last 30-plus years.

"He told me how satisfied he has been that the projects in Singapore have done well and met their objectives, and that Singapore remains a good place for companies to do business," said the prime minister.

"He asked me to maintain these policies and consistencies over a long period of time, so that companies can have the confidence to invest and to help build our economy. And I said yes, of course, that's exactly what we're going to do, and that's my message to Korean businesspeople too," Mr Lee added.

According to latest statistics, Singapore is currently South Korea's sixth largest trading partner, while South Korea is Singapore's seventh biggest trading partner. Total bilateral trade surpassed US$23 billion last year.

South Korea's investments in Singapore amounted to US$5.8 billion in 2012 in fields such as shipping, logistics and construction, making Singapore its fourth largest destination for investments.

Singapore, too, has invested heavily - over US$9 billion - in South Korea in areas like real estate, ports and pharmaceuticals.

After lunch, Mr Lee and his delegation made the short journey from his hotel to the Blue House, the executive office and official residence of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

During their closed-door meeting, they agreed that there was much scope for both countries to pool their strengths in areas like research and development, science and technology, and the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

According to the Singapore Foreign Affairs Ministry, the two leaders noted that bilateral ties had grown significantly under the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (KSFTA), which came into force seven years ago. They looked forward to a "substantive review" that would encourage further two-way trade and investment.

Separately, Mr Lee called on South Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategy and Finance Hyun Oh-seok.

Earlier in the day, Mr Lee also visited the Seoul National Cemetery, the final resting place for some 165,000 Koreans including Ms Park's father, former president Park Chung-hee.

Mr Lee leaves for Tokyo later today to attend a special summit marking 40 years of Japan-Asean relations.

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