Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the government dinner during the state visit by President Halimah Yacob of Singapore
Madam President, Mr Alhabshee, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Imagine if we were to set off from here today to the furthest destination that we could reach over land.
Picture a long journey through Europe, crossing the Bosporus into Asia, across the deserts of the Middle East and the mountains of the Indian subcontinent, until we couldn't go any further.
If we did that, our journey would end in downtown Singapore on the banks of the island 'Pulau Ujong', which means 'island at the end'.
From our perspective in The Hague, a very appropriate name!
What does this tell us?
First, that Singapore and the Netherlands could hardly be further apart on the map.
But also how special it is that we - despite this distance - enjoy such close ties and have so much in common.
Perhaps it's because, geographically speaking, we are very alike.
After all, both our countries have a strategic coastal location and form the gateway to an enormous continent.
Singapore is the springboard to the big, booming economies of China and Southeast Asia.
The Netherlands is the hub connecting a European market of over 500 million affluent consumers, thanks to Rotterdam and Schiphol, its world-class sea and airports.
We might be small countries, but we punch well above our weight in areas like logistics, transport and trade.
The long-standing ties between Singapore and the Netherlands go beyond the purely national. They also exist at a personal level.
Your visit has highlighted this once again.
The most prominent personal connection is of course that between the Dutchman Albert Winsemius and the founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. Their special relationship was based on shared pragmatism and optimism about the future, and on a shared belief in free trade and an open economy.
The same spirit that inspired the reconstruction of the Netherlands after the devastation of the Second World War.
And the same spirit that made Singapore grow, within the space of a generation, from a small country buffeted by the waves of world history to a leading modern powerhouse, shaping the world of tomorrow.
As small, outward-looking trading nations, we understand the importance of a stable and fair international order, both for our own peoples and for the rest of the world.
This is something we jointly continue to protect and promote.
In recent decades Singapore has achieved a great deal, scoring high on all global rankings.
It's the world's second-most competitive country, according to the World Economic Forum.
It also ranks second in 'ease of doing business'.
And, Madam President, your country doesn't just top the economic rankings - Singapore has also been designated the most 'technology-ready' country, as well as the safest and the smartest city in the world.
These are amazing achievements.
And although the Netherlands doesn't do badly in these rankings either, we can certainly learn a lot from you.
Fortunately, learning from each other is one of the reasons we're here this evening.
Lee Kuan Yew said of himself: 'I have never ceased to be a student. I have never ceased to learn.'
And I think that's a characteristic we share: the drive to acquire new knowledge and to apply it.
Pragmatic and forward-looking.
So it's fitting that we are combining business with pleasure at this dinner, and I look forward to our discussions this evening.
I'd like to raise a glass in celebration of your highly successful visit to the Netherlands - thank you very much for coming!
Let's drink a toast to the friendship between our two countries, and to all the positive things our future cooperation will bring.