Singapore is looking to attract more Latin American businesses to set up here and to use the Republic as a base to invest in the region's economic growth.
The legal sector, which has been liberalised to allow for more foreign participation, aims for a greater Latin American presence.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam encouraged Latin American businesses and investors to make Singapore a bigger part of their international plans against a backdrop of strengthening economic and trade relations.
"Latin American businesses, professionals and countries can take advantage of Singapore's openness to use it as a base to reach out to investors here or in the region," Mr Shanmugam said in his address at the Latin American Investment Summit here yesterday.
He said Singapore's strategic location, excellent infrastructure and connectivity, competitiveness and other strong fundamentals make it an excellent choice for Latin American businesses looking to expand in the region.
Mr Shanmugam added that the region surrounding Singapore is one that cannot be ignored.
"If you want a presence in South-east Asia, you are looking at an economy where in the case of Indonesia alone, is just under a trillion dollars, with GDP growing at 6 per cent.
"If you look at South-east Asia together, it is slightly above $2 trillion. If you look at Australia and New Zealand as part of this market, which is a natural market, we are talking about almost three-fifths of China's GDP just in this region.
"If you then look at South Asia as a natural point to service from Singapore, which has Indian companies coming over in large numbers and raising capital, people servicing their markets from Singapore, then the picture is very different.
"That is a fairly compelling argument for people focused on South Asia, South-east Asia with Australia, which are important centres."
He said some Latin American companies already recognise the importance of Singapore in the region and use it as a base for their business activities in this part of the world.
"Close to 20 Latin American countries use Singapore as a hub for further expansion into Asia," he said, citing Brazilian energy giant Petrobras, mining company Vale and Chilean wine producer Concha y Toro as examples.
Bilateral trade between Singapore and Latin America reached $37.9 billion in 2011, a 38.3 per cent increase over 2010.
"It represents 3.8 per cent of Singapore's total trade and there is substantial room to grow," said Mr Shanmugam.
There was room for a greater Latin American presence in Singapore's legal sector too, noted Mr Shanmugam. He pointed out that the government's efforts in allowing for more foreign participation in the legal sector in recent years has paid off.
"In 2007 we had over 60 FLPs (foreign law practices) in Singapore. This year, we have close to double, more than 110. In 2007 we had more than 630 foreign lawyers. Today, it is more than 1,000," he said. "We hope to extend that reach to farther parts of the world, including Latin America."
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