(AGI) Rome, May 24 - Italy and Singapore are worlds apart geographically but their interests are convergent, stemming from long-standing relations and aspirations for growth to be shared and put to use. This was the backdrop of the conference held on Tuesday morning at Palazzo Altieri, the seat of the Italian Banking Association (ABI) in Rome, on the occasion of the publication of the book "Italia e Singapore. Le differenze che avvicinano". The event was occurring along with the visit to Italy by Singapore's president, Tony Tan Keng Yam. Italy's Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Benedetto Della Vedova, called it a "historic visit" and stressed the need to "strengthen cooperation" between Italy and Singapore, given the "crucial role played by Southeast Asia from a political and economic point of view". He noted, "Trade reached 2.2 billion euros in 2015, and Singapore is our primary export destination in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) area." Trade flow is currently "below its potential" and much can be done, he added. Singapore's interest towards technological innovation was expressed by its Minister of Trade and Industry, S. Iswaran, who highlighted the agreements signed in recent days between Italian universities and Singaporean research centres. "It's important, because if we aim for economic growth it's fundamental to invest in technological innovation that will help transform traditional manufacturing activities," he stated. Mr Iswaran also emphasised the historic relations between Italy and Singapore, dating back to the latter's independence in 1965; an "act of faith" by Italy towards the new state that "alongside the numerous high-level official visits, demonstrates the nature of our relations". Italy considers Singapore "a natural partner", remarked the president of the Italy-ASEAN Association, Enrico Letta. "Consolidating a privileged cooperation is a priority for the government, the economic-industrial community, and for culture," he affirmed. Mr Letta underlined the importance of the involvement of the ABI, which "intends to aid the internationalisation of Italian business". He also emphasized the presence of the Italian Minister for Education, Stefania Giannini, which demonstrates the interest that the government and entire cultural world has in a cooperation among universities and research centres. Despite the apparent differences in tradition, culture, and geography, "there's a special attraction between the two countries," said Minister Giannini, as well as "common goals" and "bilateral relations that are increasingly fruitful". In the same view, the book "Italia e Singapore. Le differenze che avvicinano", published by Arel-il Mulino and edited by Romeo Orlandi, attempts to see "if both parties can learn from our respective experiences", Mr Orlandi said. "Singapore is a magnet for Italian businesses, but Italy can attract Singaporean companies too." (AGI). .