Singapore makes Norway state visit

The northern lights in Tromsø. A far cry from equatorial Singapore. Source: Flickr

Singapore’s president, Tony Tan Keng Yam, is today due to make the city-state’s first state visit to Norway at the invitation of King Harald V. Twelve agreements and memoranda of understanding are due to be signed during the visit to bolster bilateral ties.

Tan is making a three-day visit to Oslo, before heading to the frozen north in Tromsø, far beyond the Arctic Circle, for a further three days, from where he might see the northern lights.

Harald and Queen Sonja will host him at the royal palace in Oslo.

The couple visited Singapore in 1978 and made a private visit in 1984 before a state visit in 2004.

Among Singapore’s European trading partners, Norway ranks eighth, reaching S$2.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) in 2015. Around 400 Norwegian firms have dealings in Singapore, mostly in the Lion City’s lucrative maritime and offshore sectors. Norway is Singapore’s 13th largest foreign investor, reaching S$21.9 billion.

Tan’s trip is aimed to showcase the supposed cooperation in maritime and economic affairs, education and research and development.

He will also meet parliamentary president Olemic Thommessen and Prime Minister Erna Solberg, attend a Singapore-Norway Business Forum and a Singapore-Norway enterprise seminar.

Tan is no doubt looking forward to the “seed deposit ceremony” that is planned at the Tøyen Manor at the National History Museum’s botanical gardens and a ride on the Helmer Hanssen research vessel with Norway’s coast guard and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

He will also lay a wreath at the national monument at the medieval Akershus castle in Oslo to mark the Second World War.

In 1906, a year after Norwegian independence, it set up an honorary consulate in Singapore, then part of the Straits settlements, in recognition that it was an important harbour for Norway’s shipping.

Formal diplomatic relations were established in 1969, after Singapore’s independence from the Federation of Malayan.

His wife Mary Tan, minister for the environment Masagos Zulkifli, Prime Minister’s Office minister Sam Tan and various MPs will be embracing the temperature shift from the equator to the Arctic Circle.

The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, originally halted its investment in tech-manufacturer Singapore Technologies Engineering in 2002 after a recommendation from the Norwegian Council on Ethics, an independent ethics watchdog, that the firm was producing lethal anti-personnel landmines.

The firm later told the council that it had ceased munitions production, which has lured Norwegian investors back to the tech firm.

“The Council on Ethics has received confirmation from Singapore Technologies Engineering that the company no longer has any activities associated with production of anti-personnel landmines or cluster munitions,” the authorities in Oslo said.