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French economic reforms may spark new dynamism in Europe: S’pore

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Republic’s interested in these reforms, says Lim Hng Kiang

IN PARIS

WITH global markets in a tailspin over fears of a US recession, the world clearly needs more growth engines.

Hence Singapore’s interest in the progress of economic reforms in France, which, if successful, could spark new dynamism in Europe, says Trade & Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang. Mr Lim is in Paris as a member of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s delegation on a three-day visit to France.

Mr Lim was speaking to Singapore reporters yesterday morning, ahead of a day of meetings with the country’s economic tsars and business elite.

France’s Minister for the Economy, Finance and Employment, Christine Lagarde, hosted lunch for PM Lee.

The two leaders exchanged views on regional issues and the outlook for the global economy, including the US financial market woes and the impact on Europe and East Asia, according to Mr Lee’s press secretary.

Mr Lee also updated Ms Lagarde on Singapore’s economic restructuring and upgrading efforts, and on its growth priorities for the coming years.

On bilateral relations, they agreed to continue strengthening economic cooperation, and affirmed the importance of closer trade and investment linkages between Asean and the European Union.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Mr Lee met on Monday, has set out far-reaching reforms to France’s entrenched social welfare system, including the end to its maximum 35-hour working week.

A more competitive Europe with strong economic growth will provide another growth engine for the global economy, Mr Lim told reporters.

In their meeting on Monday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon updated Mr Lee on the progress of reform measures.

Investment inflows from France and Europe to Singapore have been ‘very strong’ in the last few years, Mr Lim said, despite the big focus on China and India.

Singapore, on its part, is courting new investments from France in sectors such as energy, digital media, ideogaming and petrochemicals.

Singapore is France’s second leading investment destination in Asia, after Japan, with investments in the Republic totalling some 3.5 billion euros (S$7.4 billion) at end-2005. More than 400 French companies, including familiar names such as ST Microelectronics and Air Liquide, are operating in Singapore.

Mr Lee was last night due to meet some of France’s top corporate chiefs at a private networking dinner organised by Singapore’s Economic Development Board. This morning, he will have breakfast with another group of French businessmen.

Besides business and the economy, other issues on security and cultural exchanges also figure in Mr Lee’s meetings with the French leaders. He met the Defence Minister Herve Morin yesterday afternoon.

 

Source: Business Times 23 Jan 08

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