Singapore Government Press Release
Media Division, Ministry of Information and The Arts,
36th Storey, PSA Building, 460 Alexandra Road, Singapore 119963.
Speech by Dr Ong Chit Chung, Chairman, Government Parliamentary Committee For Defence And Foreign Affairsat The American Club’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations on Saturday, 12 September 1998 at 4.00 pm
I am pleased to be here at the 50th anniversary celebration of the American Club.
Fifty years is a long time, especially when compared to the history of Singapore which, only last month, celebrated its 33rd year of nationhood. Throughout the last half a century, the American Club has been at the centre of the American community here in Singapore, providing a sense of home for Americans and Canadians. It has also become a familiar landmark and respected institution in Singapore.
Although the club is fifty years old, the American presence in Singapore dates back much further. I understand that the first Americans arrived in Singapore about 150 years ago. But it was not until 1917 that the American community first banded together and formed The American Association of Singapore. It was this group that in turn identified the need for an American "Club" to provide "a home away from home" for American business people and their families based in Singapore. In true American tradition, the Club has also welcomed other nationalities and encouraged many to share in the rich heritage of the United States of America. I understand that current membership comprise 61% North American, 28% Singaporean and 11% other nationalities. This multi-national approach is not only commendable, it is a plus point in an age of global inter-dependence.
The American Club epitomises the role the United States has played in Singapore’s development as well as that of the region. The Club created a conducive environment for those finding their feet in unfamiliar and uncharted waters. Similarly, it was American political and military engagement in the region which helped to create a stable environment for Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries at a critical period of their economic development. Notwithstanding the present financial crisis, Southeast Asia’s prosperity in the last thirty years would not have been possible without America’s leadership and efforts in the last half-century. Today, the United States continues to remain an indispensable and increasingly critical factor for peace, security and economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region.
On the occasion of the American Club’s golden jubilee, let me reaffirm the importance that Singapore places on its bilateral relationship with the United States. Our two countries have forged a close working relationship based on shared mutual interests. We have shared interests in the security and strategic as well as in the economic fields. In the security arena, both our countries consider it vital for the United States to remain engaged and to maintain a strong presence in the region. Singapore has publicly and consistently stated its support for American presence and has said so, even when it was unpopular to do so. We have also, within the constraint of our limited space, offered the US access to some of our facilities. Our two countries have also worked closely in regional security dialogues such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
In the economic arena, the United States continues to be Singapore’s top trading partner and is the largest foreign investor in our manufacturing sector. Singapore was the 9th largest export market for the US in 1997, larger than countries like France and China. The US was Singapore’s largest export market and our second largest source of imports (after Japan) in 1997. There are more than 1200 American companies operating in Singapore and many have made Singapore their regional headquarters. Nearly 17,000 Americans live and work here. With Ambassador Green at the fore, I am confident that number will grow. Since coming here in February, he has been actively promoting Singapore and the region to the US. Likewise, High Commissioner Carin has also been working hard to increase the links between Singapore and Canada, an important part of the North American continent.
The friendship and cooperation that exists between our countries is also reflected by the close personal ties between our peoples. Many of our brightest students go to American and Canadian schools and our tourists have always flocked to North America. Likewise, the number of North American tourists has been significant. On a personal note, may I add that I did my postgraduate studies at Duke University. I am always grateful for the hospitality I enjoyed in North Carolina.
These ties of friendship have been further deepened by the role played by your Club. Through the Club, the North American community has made an effort to reach out to Singaporeans. The American Club has been active in community and volunteer work. I understand that the Club has worked with the Singapore Children’s Society, the Henderson Senior Citizens Home and the Salvation Army. I commend your role in these areas.
In conclusion, let me say that I am confident that American Club will continue to play an important role in strengthening the friendship between our countries, government and people. I am glad that the members of the American Club had raised $31,000 for the Salvation Army for its community projects in Singapore. This will definitely strengthen the links between the American community and the local community in Singapore. As the American Club begins its next 50 years, may I wish it more good years in Singapore.
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