Germany and Singapore: Bilateral Relations Singapore

09.04.2019 - Article

Political relations

Germany and Singapore enjoy very good relations, founded on close cooperation at both the bilateral and multilateral level. Singapore’s constructive role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), remarkable stability and 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 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between them.

The quality of bilateral relations has been underlined and enhanced by high-level visits. Federal Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen attended the Shangri-La Dialogue (the regional security dialogue) on 2 and 3 June 2018. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Singapore from 2 to 3 November 2017 – 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 Halimah Yacob, his Singaporean counterpart at the time. Saxony’s then Minister-President Stanislaw Tillich and Hesse’s Minister-President Volker Bouffier have visited Singapore in their capacity as state premiers and Bundesrat Presidents, accompanied by large business and scientific delegations. In March 2019, Michael Kretschmer, Minister-President of the Free State of Saxony, visited the country with a large delegation. The programme included a performance by the Semperoper’s ballet company.  Several Land ministers visited Singapore in 2018. Members of the German Bundestag from the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the ASEAN States, chaired by Renate Künast, recently spent several days in Singapore.

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 then Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. During Prime Minister Lee’s visit to Germany in December 2005, he and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel issued the German-Singaporean Declaration, aimed at stepping up cooperation in the political and economic realms, as well as in research, education and culture. Foreign Ministers Heiko Maas and Vivian Balakrishnan issued a joint declaration on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018. Minister of Defence von der Leyen signed an expanded cooperation agreement with her Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue in early June 2018. Prime Minister Lee reiterated his invitation to the Federal Chancellor to visit Singapore during the G20 Summit in Hamburg.
There is wide consensus between the two countries on major foreign policy issues, such as preserving multilateralism, the need for global peacekeeping based on regional alliances, the fight against terrorism, and protecting the rule of law and a rules-based international order. The same is true of foreign trade policy goals, for example the promotion of global free trade, international cooperation and free competition, as well as international climate protection policy. Germany’s industrial and technology sectors, including its pioneering role in the field of Industrie 4.0, are highly regarded in Singapore.

Economic relations

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 – based in Kuala Lumpur), the Germany Singapore Business Forum (GSBF, which has held ten meetings since its establishment in 1994, most recently in Hanover in April 2018 on the margins of the HANNOVER MESSE), Singapore’s state-run Economic Development Board (EDB) and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore, which has an office in Frankfurt am Main) help to promote intensive economic activity in both directions. Around 1700 German firms are currently registered in Singapore. Given its close academic 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 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, which leads to a degree at the Singapore Institute of Technology and includes an approximately one-year internship with a German company in Singapore or Germany.

In 2017, Singapore’s exports to Germany were worth 6.5 billion euros, while imports from Germany totalled 6.9 billion euros.

Cultural relations

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 based in Singapore also sponsor local cultural events. An audience of 6000 people attended the classical music open-air concert, Beethoven im Garten, which took place for the first time in 2018 and was held in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Conducted by Kahchun Wong, Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, who comes from Singapore, the event raised awareness in Singapore of the intensive bilateral cultural relations.

Singapore is Southeast Asia’s most important location for universities and research. Around 250 Germans work at universities and research institutes in the country. There are some 80 bilateral cooperation projects between German higher education institutions and Singapore’s six universities. The German Academic Exchange Service has had an Information Centre in Singapore since 2001. It promotes Germany as a place to study at fairs and information events. 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. The Singaporean Government provides funding to the TUM CREATE research centre, which focuses on the topic of future mobility.

Fraunhofer Singapore was opened in 2017 and is the first Fraunhofer Institute in Asia. The Max Planck-NTU Joint Lab for Artificial Senses was inaugurated at Nanyang Technological University at the beginning of 2019.

In the 2+2 programme on advanced production technologies, a research promotion programme with equal funding from both countries was carried out for the first time in 2018.

German ranks third among third languages taught in Singapore, after Japanese and French. For years, the annual number of German learners has been constant at around 1800. Apart from the Goethe-Institut, Nanyang Technical University and the Ministry of Education Language Centre (MOELC) are important organisations in this language training. The German European School Singapore (GESS) was established in 1971. Beginning with kindergarten, instruction there leads to the German International Abitur (German section of the school) or the International Baccalaureate (IB). The GESS now has over 1700 students from 65 countries, making it the largest German school in Asia. It moved to a new campus at the start of the 2018/2019 school year. This campus can accommodate up to 2000 students.

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.


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