Speech by Minister Lee Boon Yang at the Opening of Museum Hopping:The Asia-Europe Market Place for sharing Cultural Heritage

05/03/2004

Your Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great honour to join you at this opening of Museum Hopping and to welcome all our guests especially those who came from overseas for this event.

2.     Museum Hopping has brought eminent professionals from museums in Asia and Europe together, to work on projects that through the pooling of experience, will significantly increase the knowledge and appreciation of Asian and European cultures. This will certainly go a long way in promoting deeper understanding and stronger cultural cooperation between the two regions. It is also the first time for these museums to collectively invite businesses to participate in the discussions to build up a strategic partnership between museums and corporate citizens. Indeed, businesses do have a stake in helping to promote cultural cooperation between Asia and Europe.

3.     Asia is becoming increasingly attractive to global investors. In 2002, Asia captured 13.6 % of the global foreign direct investment (FDI). More interestingly, during the same year, China overtook the United States to become the world's second largest recipient of the global FDI. The market opportunities in Asia are simply quite enormous. The pace of growth in the twin giants, India and China, are clear indicators of where Asia is heading for. The outlook is optimistic. In the coming years and decades, the economic and political links between Europe and Asia are bound to grow. In fact in 2002, Europe's trade with East Asia exceeded Europe's trade across the Atlantic. This trend will continue to grow as companies look to Asia to expand their businesses and find new profitable markets.

4.     Companies that expect to succeed in Asia must have the right knowledge of the market environment. Knowledge for success is not only limited to products and business know-how or economic data and political trends. Increasingly knowledge and understanding of the culture of local communities will play an important part in business strategy and outcome. The history and culture of a community will determine the values and societal norms upheld by the community. These are strong factors which influence the consumer behaviour, working styles and business etiquettes. Let me illustrate with an example. Anyone who wishes to do business in China will need to understand the cultural dynamics of "guanxi", which means interpersonal relationship in Chinese. "Guanxi" has been a pervasive part of the Chinese social behaviour for centuries, and weighs heavily on commercial activities as well. Not knowing nor understanding this concept may cost a company which hopes to do business in China. Knowledge and understanding of the relevant culture will also help a company develop its product, marketing strategy and network with local partners. Companies that have achieved such understanding and appreciation of local cultures will clearly have a competitive advantage over those who do not.

5.     When I was speaking at the ASEM Conference on Cultures and Civilisations held in Beijing last December, I talked about the need for ASEM to address the cultural gap between Europe and Asia. To bridge this cultural gap, it is essential to increase awareness about each other's cultures, practices and development. Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS)'s effort to initiate projects to explore and forge stronger links between the diverse cultures of Asia and Europe, will help to enhance mutual respect, appreciation and understanding between our two regions.

6.     Museum Hopping provides an excellent platform for businesses to be involved in growing cultural cooperation between the two regions. I am happy that this event is being held at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. We are most honoured to serve as the platform for this very important dialogue and to provide the venue for people from different parts of the world to meet and exchange ideas. The network of more than 70 museums across Asia and Europe will continue to grow in the future. The projects and opportunities for broader and deeper collaboration will take ASEMUS into its next phase of development.

7.     In conclusion, I would like to thank all that have made this event possible, namely the Asia Europe Foundation, the British Museum and the National Heritage Board of Singapore. I wish all participants a successful and fruitful Museum Hopping experience and hope that you will find a project worthy of your support.

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