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Swiss-Singapore ties at a new high

Switzerland and Singapore enjoy long standing broad-based bilateral relations and the visit of Singapore's new Deputy Prime Minister, Heng Swee Keat, to Switzerland in May this year soon after taking up his new position has further strengthened them, says Switzerland's Ambassador in Singapore, Fabrice Filliez, in an interview with The Business Times on the occasion of the Swiss National Day today.

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Ambassador Filliez says: "We all are witnessing a heavily changing environment worldwide. Major disruptions such as digital transformation, have greatly altered the global landscape. Singapore and Switzerland have much to gain from exchanging views and joining forces."

SWISS Ambassador Fabrice Filliez says: "We were delighted that Mr Heng Swee Keat was in Switzerland in May this year so soon after taking up his new office. The visit was another proof of our strong and long lasting Swiss-Singapore friendship and will further inspire our bilateral cooperation in many fields.

"Deputy Prime Minister Heng was the guest of honour at the St Gallen Symposium. The symposium, that celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, has a strong connection with Singapore.

" It is a unique event exclusively organised by students of the University of St Gallen. It is aimed at encouraging intellectual openness, integrative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit, while recognising the utmost importance of human capital.

"It was especially valuable that, being accompanied by government officials, Mr Heng visited Swiss actors in the field of business and education.

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"I had the privilege to attend the symposium and interact with the high-level Singapore delegation. It was a great joy to see the deputy prime minister's energy and interest in the Swiss economy and his exchanges with the students at the St Gallen Symposium. That was an exemplary case for opportunities that can arise once decision makers from our two countries meet."

"The next high-level visit on the Swiss-Singapore agenda will be the participation of Ms Daniela Stoffel, our State Secretary for International Finance at the Federal Department of Finance, to this year's Fintech Festival in Singapore. Moreover, I may confirm that we are planning further high-level visits in the mid- and long term."

DPM Heng led a government and business delegation to Switzerland on a five-day working trip, during which he also spoke at the 49th St Gallen Symposium. The delegation engaged various research institutes and companies in Switzerland to study the Swiss system, which excels in productivity, R&D and industry development efforts.

Mr Heng, who is also Singapore's Finance Minister, in comments released to The Business Times for this supplement, says: "I had a fruitful visit to Switzerland earlier this year, where I attended the St Gallen Symposium as well as visited research institutes and companies.

"Singapore and Switzerland have much in common - we are both small states. We are both multilingual, multiracial and multicultural. We are also strongly focused on technology and innovation to drive our economies.

"Singapore and Switzerland can continue to learn from one another, and work together on mutual areas of interest, including productivity, innovation and the use of technology.

"On the joyous occasion of Switzerland's National Day, it is my wish that Singapore and Switzerland continue to deepen the partnerships and ties between our two countries."

Ambassador Filliez, who has been here for a year, says he feels privileged that relations between Singapore and Switzerland are doing so well.

"Our two countries cooperate on a wide range of issues, with lively exchanges not only on a governmental level but also between agencies and institutions, companies and individuals," he says.

"Given our similar outlook on the world as efficient and open economies, we are natural partners. This logic also applies as we seek to forge deeper ties in the future.

"We all are witnessing a heavily changing environment worldwide. Major disruptions such as digital transformation, have greatly altered the global landscape.

"Singapore and Switzerland have much to gain from exchanging views and joining forces in meeting these challenges."

Much has happened in the development of bilateral relations since Ambassador Filliez's last interview with The Business Times soon after arriving in Singapore last year. Highlighting some of such key elements, he says:

"We look after bilateral relations and constantly care for nurturing the existing cooperation and extending it to new fields of mutual interest.

"In this sense, we enabled, among other things, a series of fruitful exchanges on specific issues such as Singapore's Asean Chairmanship, global governance, opportunities and challenges surrounding the Belt and Road Initiative, our free trade agreement, education and vocational training, cyber security, fintech and smart cities."

In June 2018, shortly after Ambassador Filliez's arrival, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin attended the 17th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue. There were also the visits of four State Secretaries to Singapore: Ms Pascale Baeriswyl for the Asean Foreign Affairs meeting; Ms Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen for bilateral discussions and Business China Roundtable on BRI; Mr Jörg Gasser for the Fintech Festival; and Mr Mauro Dell'Ambrogio for various meetings on education, science and innovation.

Other prominent Swiss visitors to Singapore have been the President of ETH Zurich for the World Education Summit; the President of EPF Lausanne, the Director General of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration; the Mayor of Montreux for the World City Summit; as well as a delegation that attended the 1st Singapore Cyber week.

"At the same time, we could welcome important high level visits to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum led by then-Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, accompanied by Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister S Iswaran.

"In early May, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat was again in Switzerland for the first time in his new capacity."