Singapore is France's third major trading partner in Asia and the leading trading partner in the ASEAN region.
French trade with Singapore grew to EUR 8.5 billion, or S$13.8 billion, in 2013, with agricultural and food products and consumer goods accounting for over a quarter of French exports to Singapore, and the aviation sector continuing to drive growth export, accounting alone for 20% of sales in 2013.
Furthermore France registered a trade surplus with Singapore for EUR 2.3 billion, or S$3.7 billion, in 2013, making Singapore the 4th largest trade surpluses of France after UK, UAE, and Hong Kong.
Over 600 French companies are based in Singapore, and not only operating in the Lion City but headquartered as regional base, like Michelin, Danone, Club Med, Renault, Clarins, L’Occitane, LVMH just to name a few.
France and Singapore will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations in 2015.
The 2 countries did sign a strategic partnership in 2012 (during the official visit to France by Singapore Prime Minister Mr. Lee Hsien Loong), to foster their bilateral relations, and the partnership is being reviewed annually in order to work even more closely across several fields which include political, economic, education, research, culture, and defense areas.
Amid all areas of cooperation, France has also expressed an interest in participating in the Singapore to Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail project.
It is obvious that growing bilateral interests along the France-Singapore economic corridor go along with a growing demand for air links between La Ville Lumiere and the Lion City, including a growing demand for premium service.
To provide the best art of travel, French flag airline Air France selected Singapore as the first country to receive the new cabins which have been conceived and designed with the passenger in mind, and reflecting the art of welcoming guests “a la francaise".
Featuring the new long-haul products and services, with the new La Premiere Suites, the new Business Class, and the new Premium Economy and Economy class cabins, Air France debuted on 29 September 2014 with the first fully fitted aircraft, a Boeing B777-300ER, flying the Paris-Singapore-Jakarta route and back, with flight numbers AF254 and AF259.
Showcasing a commitment to constant innovation and room for improvement, Air France is raising the bar of the way of flying to the highest levels, with the Boeing triple seven featuring 4 La Premiere Suites, 58 Business class seats, 28 Premium Economy class seats, and 206 Economy class seats ensuring optimal travel comfort and better in-flight entertainment while introducing a higher and unique level of luxury in the 2 premium cabins.
The new La Premiere product offers 4 exclusive individual suites ensuring optimum privacy and outstanding comfort with a cushioned seat that fully stretches out to become a bed over 2 meters long, with mattress, soft duvet, smooth sheets, a merino wool blanket, and a generous pillow fit for the world's best hotels.
And coupled with a Givenchy pour la Premiere travel kit designed by Givenchy, the French luxury brand of haute couture, a table set designed by French architect and designer Jean Marie Massaud featuring porcelain plates by Bernardaud, beveled glasses and cutlery by Christofle, and a dining experience created by a host of Michelin-starred chefs of the caliber of Joël Robuchon, Régis Marcon, Michel Roth, Guy Martin, and Anne Sophie Pic, the French style of welcoming guests a-la-francaise truly delivers the ultimate luxury.
The new Business class product offers 58 contemporary-designed seats that reflects the latest concept of air travel: full flat, to unwind in a perfectly horizontal bed; full access, with access to the aisle for every passenger with a cabin layout of 4 seats per row, in a 1-2-1 configuration, and full privacy, maintaining personal space, desk, dining table, and bed sheltered from view.
The travel kit is inspired by that given to the passengers on the supersonic Concorde, the 16-inch HD screen interfaces in 12 languages, and the dining experience starts with a stylish tableware designed by Jean-Marie Massaud and continues with gourmet flavours of the highest quality prepared by Michelin-starred chefs.
In brief, the most stylish experience a business class frequent flyer can enjoy.
The decision to launch the new cabins starting with Singapore is part of the Air France strategy "Best & Beyond" to provide the best product in the market, and as a matter of fact Air France-KLM is the European airline leader in the ASEAN region.
France interest in ASEAN is significant, taking the advantages of the opportunities of a growing middle class with a growing purchasing power, and the growing demand for style and lifestyle.
And France invested some S$10.8 billion in FDI in Singapore, making France the 6th largest FDI investor in the Lion City, and a good S$15.7 billion of FDI in the ASEAN region, with top spots for Indonesia and Thailand.
As we all know Foreign Direct Investments play a key role in the development of the economy of the city-state of Singapore, attracting more than 50% of the incoming FDI in the entire ASEAN region, from multinationals and innovative SMEs, and the European Union remains the largest investor, well ahead of the USA and Japan.
Last but not least, France is synonymous with style, elegance, and luxury, in fashion, from haute couture to pret-a-porter, in jewelry, in patisserie, in gourmet foods, in wines and champagnes, in … just style!
The epitome of French luxury in Singapore, the Louis Vuitton flagship store at the Marina Bay Sands features the Louis Vuitton Island Maison, designed by worldwide famous American interior designer Peter Marino: the brand's first "Maison" concept in South-East Asia, is set on a spectacular futuristic glass and steel structure floating like a ship on the water next to the Marina Bay Sands, and offers a shopping experience like no other, including a bookstore, an art gallery, and a "travel room" showcasing travel luggage.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Antonio Acunzo is the Chief Executive Officer at MTW Group-Marketing that Works!, a market-entry strategy and brand marketing advisory firm founded in Florida, and with Asia-Pacific office in Singapore. He brings with him over 15 years of experience in international business in the US and Asian markets focused on the Luxury and THL industries, and is a regular speaker at marketing and international business events.