Last updated in September 2015
Germany enjoys very good relations with Singapore, founded on close cooperation both bilaterally and multilaterally. Singapore’s constructive role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), its remarkable stability and its regional significance make it an important partner for German foreign policy. Singapore is held in high regard as a driving force and intermediary in promoting political relations between European and Asian countries. In November 2015, Germany and Singapore will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
The quality of bilateral relations has been underlined and enhanced by high-level visits. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Germany in February 2015, holding talks with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, among others. Singapore’s President Tony Tan met with Federal Chancellor Merkel in August 2014 on the sidelines of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, after previously meeting with her on his official visit to Germany in June and July 2012, during which he also held talks with Federal President Gauck. Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited Singapore in February 2013. His programme included talks with Singapore’s Foreign Minister K Shanmugam. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Singapore in June 2011. During Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Germany in December 2005, the Federal Chancellor and the Prime Minister issued the German-Singaporean Declaration, aimed at stepping up cooperation in the political and economic realms as well as in research, education and culture.
There is wide agreement between the two countries on major foreign policy issues such as the need for global peacekeeping based on regional alliances and the fight against terrorism. The same is true of foreign trade policy, e.g. the promotion of global free trade, international cooperation and free competition. Germany’s industrial and technology sectors are highly regarded in Singapore.
Singapore is Germany’s most important economic partner in the ASEAN area. Institutions such as the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (SGC, founded in July 2004), the German Centre Singapore (opened in 1995), the German Singapore Business Forum (GSBF, nine meetings since its establishment in 1994, the most recent in May 2014 in Munich) as well as the Economic Development Board (EDB) and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) with offices in Frankfurt am Main help to promote vigorous economic activity in both directions. There are currently some 1,500 German companies registered in Singapore. Given its close academic, scientific and economic relations with Singapore, Germany also cooperates with the country on developing a dual system of vocational training. Under the Poly Goes UAS programme, graduates of Singapore’s polytechnis can go to study in Germany after completing a six-month German course at the Goethe Institute. The Poly Goes SIT programme enables graduates of polytechnics to embark on a dual studies programme leading to a degree at the Singapore Institute of Technology, which includes an approximately one-year internship with a German company in Singapore or Germany.
According to Singaporean figures, in 2014 the country’s exports to Germany were worth EUR 4.06 billion and imports from Germany EUR 8.02 billion, making Germany Singapore’s principal goods trading partner in the European Union again in 2014.
A bilateral cultural accord has been in place since 1990. The main cultural activities in Singapore are organised by the Goethe Institute, whose events and in particular language courses meet with keen public interest. Major German companies are engaged in local culture sponsoring of their own.
Given Singapore’s efforts to retain its leading position in the world economy through science and high tech, promoting ties among institutions of higher education plays a central role in bilateral relations. There are more than 70 bilateral cooperation projects between German higher education institutions on the one hand and Singapore’s six universities on the other. Since 2001, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has run an information centre for student counselling, which uses fairs and information events to promote Germany as a place to study. In July 2002, TUM Asia began operating as the first “independent foreign subsidiary” of a German university – the Technische Universität München (TUM) – in Singapore. TUM Asia has since begun offering bachelor’s and master’s programmes as well as PhD and research opportunities as part of the TUM CREATE research project in cooperation with Singaporean universities and polytechnics.
In May 2011, the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research in Darmstadt set up the Fraunhofer Project Centre for Interactive Digital Media (IDM@NTU) in cooperation with Singaporean partners.
German ranks third among third foreign languages taught in Singapore, after Japanese and French. The annual number of German learners has been constant for years at around 1,800. The German European School Singapore (GESS) was established in 1971. Beginning with kindergarten, instruction there leads to the German International Abitur (German Section) or the International Baccalaureate (IB). It now has some 1,500 students, making it the largest German School in Asia.