What’s Next for Singapore-France Relations in 2018?

An upcoming visit provides both sides with an opportunity to further advance cooperation amid broader regional and global trends.

What’s Next for Singapore-France Relations in 2018?

Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen hosting French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly to breakfast on the sidelines of the 17th Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018.

Credit: MINDEF Singapore

On July 14, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will visit France to attend the Bastille Day parade on July 14, where he has been invited as a guest of honor. His attendance will once again shed light on the ongoing relationship between France and Singapore in a significant year for ties amid broader regional and global trends.

Singapore and France have had a broad-based relationship for decades that has covered a range of fields including trade, education, research and defense. France has provided the city-state’s air force with space to train at Cazaux Air Base, and has recently been Singapore’s second-largest trading partner within the European Union. Both sides elevated their ties to a strategic partnership back in 2012.

2018 has been billed as a significant year for relations. On the security side, it marks the 20th anniversary of the SAF’s Advanced Jet Training in Cazaux Air Base, which is a key aspect of the defense relationship. And on the economic side, 2018 had been billed the France-Singapore Year of Innovation since last year when former President Francois Hollande had paid a state visit to Singapore in March before he was replaced by Emmanuel Macron.

This comes amid a series of broader regional and global developments, including, among others, China’s continued maritime assertiveness, uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration despite its unveiling of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, Singapore’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and France’s own continuing efforts to strengthen its presence in the Indo-Pacific, which includes boosting ties with Southeast Asian states (See: “Vietnam-France Ties in the Spotlight with 45th Anniversary”).

According to Singapore’s foreign ministry, Lee will be visiting France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron to be a guest of honor at the French Bastille Day parade on July 14. Lee will be invited alongside Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in yet another sign of France’s increasing emphasis on the Asia-Pacific.

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Symbolically, the foreign ministry said that the parade itself will feature several events including a France-Singapore combined flypast and the inclusion of a Singapore Flag Party. Substantively, we can expect the two countries to continue to find ways to work together across realms amid the common challenges they face.