(Det talade ordet gäller)
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before this journey to Singapore I went to the library at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.
In the library I found a photo album with pictures from Prince Bertil’s official visit to this country in 1975.
The late Prince, who was His Majesty The King’s uncle, came here to strengthen Swedish-Singaporean ties.
Looking in that photo album I also realized that a certain Mr Peter Wallenberg travelled with Prince Bertil.
With me today there’s another member of the Wallenberg family present, his nephew: Marcus Wallenberg – a very important person for Sweden and head of the board of our Fellowship. I believe this shows the long commitment Sweden has had to this country.
As early as 1966 Sweden recognized Singapore. But our relations, of course, go back much further. Swedish ships started sailing here in the 19th century. And since then our relations have been rooted in trade.
Even though our nations differ in many ways, we have a lot in common. We are both countries with small populations and highly dependent on export. We know that our countries would never survive, if we only produced goods for the domestic market.
This strong belief in free trade, and our openness to the world and entrepreneurship has taken Sweden to where we are today, and I believe, also Singapore.
We have come here to get to know your market.
We have come here to establish new relations.
And above all, we have come here to learn from you.
Because there are plenty of reasons to be impressed by your country’s economic development:
Singapore has gone from being a small domestic market to now showing an enormously strong economic performance.
Around 8000 multi-national companies have placed their headquarters in your country. And 250 of these are Swedish!
And as we could see this morning, you are a maritime hub with a large amount of the world’s sea trade going through your port.
Singapore really is the gateway to Southeast Asia, with some 650 million people around the corner.
In this environment you have also managed to become a go-to place for entrepreneurs. Something I’m happy to say that you share with Sweden.
One other thing that unites our two countries is that we consistently rank among the most innovative countries in the world.
How did that happen? For us in Sweden, at least, if we have to go back 200 years. We were one of the poorest countries in Europe. Actually, we were starving! But with the help of eccentric entrepreneurs that started companies and began to export Swedish goods and ideas we survived. And we have kept surviving ever since: Thanks to these great entrepreneurs and their companies.
In Sweden we are very impressed by your school system, which is ranked top in the world. In fact a couple of weeks ago my daughter’s teacher and some of her colleagues were here to learn more from you.
When visiting NTU University this morning I was wondering why we haven’t received any Singaporean Nobel laureates in Stockholm yet. After meeting some of your many talented researchers I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until that happens.
I could go on and on about countries and businesses – but in the end it’s us, people, and how we work together that matters.
It’s about individuals and groups – like us here tonight – who meet face to face, exchanging new ideas and perspectives.
This is, what lays the foundation for future cooperation. And perhaps a new photo album at the palace; hopefully a digital one.