The Business Year

Francisco J. Rí­os

Acting Regional Group Director for Latin America, Enterprise Singapore

Chee Hong Tat

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education, Singapore

As the world confronts the challenges brought about by COVID-19, Mexico and Singapore continue to forge ahead with their efforts to strengthen global cooperation in trade, investments, and R&D.

What is the main purpose of Enterprise Singapore?
FRANCISCO J. RÍOS We are a Singapore government agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry and are fully funded by the government. Our main objective is to help Singaporean companies grow by whatever means, whether in Singapore by helping entrepreneurs come up with better ideas or improving that idea and creating better capabilities for their company or in Mexico, where we help companies internationalize, forge partnerships, or find clients. In Mexico, we have been present for 20 years, opening our office in 2000, our first office in Latin America. There was a big push at the beginning to leverage on opportunities due to the signing of NAFTA. Many manufacturing companies came early on, as well as others interested in investment. Today, some manufacturing companies from Singapore continue investing in Mexico. In terms of FDI directly from Singapore, it is a sector that attracts considerable investment in Mexico, particularly in the more sophisticated value-added segments.

What main areas of opportunities have you identified for increased commercial trade between Singapore and Mexico?
CHEE HONG TAT Mexico is Singapore’s second-largest trading partner in Latin America, and our government and business leaders have excellent relations with one another. Notwithstanding the disruption caused by COVID-19, I see good opportunities for Singaporean and Mexican companies to continue our collaborations in infrastructure, technology and innovation, agri-food, and logistics. There is also interest among Mexican companies to invest in Asia to diversify their markets and supply chains. Singaporean companies like PlusMargin are working with Mexican partners to use AI and behavioral psychology to predict consumer behavior and enhance their online shopping experience. Mexico’s fintech law, implemented in 2018 to promote secure payments and banking processes, is also attracting Singaporean technology providers in security, mobility, and financial services. Toward this end, we support each other in keeping our economies open and inclusive, resisting negative trends toward protectionism. As the world’s response to COVID-19 has shown, countries that remain open are more resilient and better able to provide for their people’s needs.

What strategies are being used to strengthen commercial ties between these two countries?
FJR The relationship between Mexico and Singapore had long been a solid one. We are partners in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the new FTA that was signed recently by 11 countries. Beyond that, we are working with the Pacific Alliance of Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico to negotiate an FTA between the Pacific Alliance and Singapore. Overall, we find the business dynamics in Southeast Asia and the 10 members of ASEAN to be similar to those in Latin America, and the solutions applied in Southeast Asia are applicable to Latin America, and vice versa. This has led us to focus heavily on innovation and technology of late. Singapore is increasingly becoming an important center of development for technology that can be applied both in Asia and Latin America. We are encouraging innovative companies with venture arms to look at Singapore as a place where they can grow their businesses in partnership with Asian companies, and looking to learn from the experience of Asia or Latin America to devise new solutions.

CHT We have taken a multi-pronged approach to strengthening bilateral and economic ties. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made an official visit to Mexico in 2019. I have visited Mexico and met with my counterparts on several occasions over the past two years. Mexico and Singapore welcome mutually beneficial agreements that support the growth of trade and investment relations among countries. This includes FTAs, such as CPTPP, Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements, bilateral investment treaties, and the Patent Prosecution Highway that enables accelerated filing of IP in both countries. As we confront the challenges brought about by COVID-19, it is imperative that we continue to forge ahead with our efforts to strengthen global cooperation in trade, investments and R&D. When the situation permits, I encourage Singaporean students to take up undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as internship opportunities, in Mexico and Latin America to gain exposure to an exciting and growing market. These efforts will further deepen the ties between Singaporean and Mexican universities and companies.



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