The ties of friendship between Italy and Singapore are strong and long-lasting. Italy was the seventh country in the world to officially recognize Singapore after the city-state gained independence in August 1965, more than 52 years ago.
But even before that, Italian tradesmen, businessmen and artists had been arriving on the shores of Singapore, contributing to the rapid development of its port and the surrounding city.
The bilateral relationship has been growing steadfastly in recent years. The number of Italian companies in Singapore has increased exponentially and is now in the hundreds, while the Italian community here is one of our largest in Asia, having almost doubled in the last five years.
Singapore is our first destination for exports In South-east Asia. Prominent political visits between our governments have multiplied, reaching the highest point in May 2016, when former Singapore president Tony Tan Keng Yam made a state visit to Italy.
Of course, while numbers are important, the quality of our relationship matters even more.
Italy Is ubiquitous in Singapore, through some of its most renowned areas of excellence. I refer not only to food, fashion and design. These will continue, of course, to be a kind of flagship for Italy,
But our main exports to Singapore - as with the rest of Asia - are actually machine tools. Our engineering companies are among the best in the world; whether in the construction sector, in the automotive or mechanical sectors, in defence or in robotics, Italian companies are on the cutting edge and work incessantly to develop the most advanced solutions in their respective fields.
It is a positive fact that our economic partnership is increasingly focused in advanced sectors and new technologies.
We think this is the way forward. ThIs is why we have organized, for two tears in a row. “Innovation Days of Italy in Singapore” bringing here 25 innovative Italian startups and letting them meet potential partners, such as investment funds, venture capitalists, R&D centres and other companies.
Collaboration between our universities is excellent, and I hope it will be further intensified through multi-sector partnerships, and also involving private companies.
This is definitely a new frontier in our bilateral cooperation, to which we are strongly committed.
We deem it crucial to advance joint research projects under the framework of our Technological and Scientific Agreement signed in 2016, during Dr Tan’s state visit.
There are, in fact, many converging fields of interest where we can share our expertise in mutually beneficial ways, starting with bioengineering, fintech, telecommunications, cyber security and, crucially, clean energy.
Investments in Italy from Singapore are rapidly increasing. The Italian government has worked hard to implement a package of reforms to make our economy more competitive and attractive to foreign investors.
We see the increased interest that Singaporean companies and investors are showing in Italy as positive evidence that these policies are working.
Singapore is not only an important commercial partner in Itself, but also a gateway to the larger Asean market.
This will be even more so after the European Union (EU)-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) comes into force.
Italy Is a long-standing supporter of free trade. We firmly believe than only an open and rules-based international system of commerce can ensure long-term prosperity to all countries.
We know that we have, in Singapore, a like-minded partner. We also hope that the conclusion of the EU-Singapore FTA can be a stepping stone to a larger, region-to-region EU-Asean FTA.
I am sure that Italy and Singapore are ready to take another step forward in their bilateral relations.
My visit to Singapore this week is aimed at reasserting our mutual friendship and promoting concrete opportunIties for cooperation at government level, and also for our companies and our universities.
Many Singaporeans love Italy for Its art, history, food and culture, but also for the quality of its machinery. Italians love Singapore for its great ability to transform ideas into concrete opportunities.
This shared passion is a great foundation to build upon and to ensure another 52 years of great friendship between our peoples.