Last updated in March 2018
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 assumed the one-year chairmanship of ASEAN on 1 January 2018, and starting on 1 August 2018, it will also chair the ASEAN-EU Joint Cooperation Committee for three years. 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 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
The quality of bilateral relations has been underlined and enhanced by high-level visits. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Singapore from 2 to 3 November 2017. This was the first ever state visit to the country by a German Federal President. In October 2016, the then President of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, held talks with his Singaporean counterpart at the time, Halimah Yacob. Saxony’s then Minister-President Stanislaw Tillich and Hesse’s Minister-President Volker Bouffier visited Singapore, in their capacity as state premiers and Bundesrat Presidents. Both were accompanied by large business and scientific delegations. Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz attended the World Cities Summit in Singapore, while Hessian Economics, Energy, Transport and Regional Development Minister Tarek Al-Wazir visited the country in late November/early December 2017 accompanied by a large business delegation. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Germany in July 2017 to attend the G20 Summit in Hamburg. In February 2017, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan took part in the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bonn, where he also held talks with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. During Prime Minister Lee’s visit to Germany in December 2005, the Federal Chancellor and the Prime Minister had 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 as well as the protection of the rule of law and the promotion of a rules-based international order. The same is true of foreign trade policy, for example 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), Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the Germany Singapore Business Forum (GSBF, ten meetings since its establishment in 1994, the most recent in August 2016 in Singapore) as well as the state-run Singapore 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 1600 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 polytechnics can go to study in Germany after completing a six-month German course at the Goethe-Institut. The Poly Goes SIT programme enables polytechnic graduates 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.
In 2016 Singapore’s exports to Germany were worth 5.37 billion euros, while imports from Germany totalled 6.71 billion euros.
A bilateral cultural agreement has been in place since 1990. The main German cultural activities in Singapore are organised by the Goethe-Institut, whose events and in particular language courses meet with keen public interest. Major German companies active in Singapore are engaged in local cultural 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 some 80 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 Technical University of Munich (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 languages taught in Singapore, after Japanese and French. The annual number of German learners has been constant for years at around 1800. 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). The GESS now has some 1500 students, making it the largest German school in Asia. It plans to move to a new campus in summer 2018.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.