Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's Official Visit to Portugal, 3 to 6 January 2024

06 January 2024

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan met Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs João Gomes Cravinho on 5 January 2024.


They reaffirmed the excellent bilateral ties between Singapore and Portugal. During their meeting, they noted the steady cadence of high-level visits on both sides. In 2022, Singapore’s total trade in goods with Portugal amounted to S$1.6 billion, a 71.6% increase from 2021. Both Ministers agreed to build on the momentum of bilateral and economic ties and deepen cooperation in emerging areas including in innovation and renewable energy.


They also welcomed more business and people-to-people exchanges between Singapore, Portugal and our respective regions. Companies in Portugal can leverage on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement to use Singapore as a gateway to tap into the vast economic potential of Southeast Asia. PSA has been investing in the port of Sines since 2000 and commenced an expansion of its operations worth over €300 million in 2022. Portugal’s largest utility company, Energias de Portugal (EDP), has committed over S$2 billion over the next four years to accelerate green energy transition in Southeast Asia.


Following their meeting, Minister Balakrishnan and Minister Cravinho inaugurated the launch of the Singapore-Portugal Innovation Alliance (SPIA). The SPIA will foster collaboration among startups and technology companies, facilitate greater business networks, and catalyse market entries into Portugal, Singapore, and our respective regions. Minister Balakrishnan’s remarks at the SPIA launch are appended.


Minister Balakrishnan also met Mayor of Lisbon Carlos Moedas on 4 January 2024. They exchanged views on Lisbon’s potential as a hub for startups, and agreed to step up exchanges in innovation, housing and public service.


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6 JANUARY 2024


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Your Excellency João Gomes Cravinho, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal


Mr Pedro Oliveira, Dean of the Nova School of Business and Economics


Ms Alexandra Ventura, Executive Director of the Westmont Institute of Tourism and Hospitality


Ms Jacinthe Tay, President of the Board of Directors of the Singapore-Portugal Innovation Alliance


Ladies and Gentlemen


1 This is a beautiful campus. I can understand why we have so many students from all over the world, including Singapore here.


2 It is a pleasure to be here this afternoon with my good friend João (Gomes Cravinho) to officiate the inauguration of the Singapore-Portugal Innovation Alliance. As the name suggests, the Alliance has a special emphasis on developing the growth of innovation-driven entities, especially startups and tech companies. Its purpose is to bring together tech innovation companies and stakeholders in the larger ecosystem to foster market entries into Portugal and Singapore, and our respective regions of the world.


3 It is fitting that we are launching it here in Lisbon, a city that has just been named the European Capital of Innovation last month by the European Commission. We congratulate Lisbon and Portugal for that. If you look around, you can understand why Lisbon is a shining example of how cities can harness innovation and reshape the urban landscape, but more important than that, reshape mental landscapes and perceptions of opportunities for the future. The annual Web Summit held in Lisbon is an iconic event that attracts over 70,000 participants, including leaders and experts in a variety of fields. 


4 Like Portugal, Singapore aims to do more in innovation and entrepreneurship. Through the years, we have established a reputation as one of the leading startup hubs in Asia and indeed, in the world. In 2023, Singapore was ranked 8th in the Global Startup Ecosystem Report. We are committed to building Singapore as a Global Asia Node of innovation, technology, and enterprise. For example, through our Global Innovation Alliance, we help startups and SMEs gain access to overseas partners, ideas, technology and skills. This is needed if our startups are going to be able to grow and become world leading as quickly as possible. Domestically, those of you who have been to Singapore would be familiar with incubators and platforms like BLOCK71 and Startup SG, and the nurture we provide for our startup ecosystem at home.


5 I am very happy to see the creation of this Alliance. I am even happier this is not something that originated from the government but is a ground-up effort driven by Singaporeans living in Portugal in partnership with collaborators and other stakeholders in Portugal itself.  I would like to give special thanks to Jacinthe Tay for her hard work in rallying everyone together for this Alliance. Starting initiatives like this is not easy. Sometimes, it is even harder than a startup as you do not have immediate profit motives or awards for people to sign on. I appreciate how difficult it is. The fact that you have been able to corral a group of merry men and women to join you speaks well for the spirit of enterprise, entrepreneurship, and verve that I hope Singaporeans all over the world will emulate.



There remains great potential for synergy between Singapore and Portugal. We are both small nations, outward oriented, maritime seafaring nations - that confluence of outlook makes us natural partners. The world stands at the threshold of a new revolution involving digital technologies like AI, quantum computing, synthetic biology, and renewable energy to deal with the challenges of climate change. Because we are at an inflection point, this is a moment more than ever before when we need startups and the spirit of innovation and enterprise. Congratulations, and I wish you all the very best.


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Caption: Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal João Gomes Cravinho in Lisbon, 5 January 2024

Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore

Caption: Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan inaugurating the launch of the Singapore-Portugal Innovation Alliance with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal João Gomes Cravinho at the Nova School of Business and Economics in Lisbon, 5 January 2024

Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore

Caption: Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s meeting with Mayor of Lisbon Carlos Moedas, 4 January 2024

Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore

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