Singapore and Europe are 'natural partners' in 3 areas: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE – Europe can be a “natural partner” for Singapore in three areas, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Thursday (April 29).

These are: providing a secure and reliable environment where businesses can anchor themselves; connecting people, businesses, and ideas through digitalisation; and working towards sustainability by growing the green economy.

Mr Chan was speaking at the European Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (EuroCham) annual general meeting at the Grand Hyatt in Orchard.

On providing a secure and reliable environment, he said: “Geopolitics has come to the forefront of most companies’ considerations when reviewing investment opportunities.

“The global chessboard of supply chains with intricate cross-border linkages is therefore facing a major reshuffle. As companies consider how to reposition their pieces on this board, it will not simply be a question of geographical proximity, but one of shared values and trust.”

Singapore has established itself as an international business hub by demonstrating its ability to be a reliable, neutral partner for businesses, he added.

“We desire to strengthen this competitive advantage of ours…We offer predictability because of the coherence and consistency of our policies.”

He noted that this was demonstrated when, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore kept its borders open to allow essential goods to flow unimpeded and for companies to fulfil their commercial obligations.

Mr Chan also said digitalisation and digital trade has created significant opportunities for investment and development.

He cited a recent study by Google, Temasek and Bain showing that the digital economy in Southeast Asia should triple from US$100 billion (S$132.6 billion) to over US$300 billion by 2025.

“Singapore is closely plugged into this growth, with the highest number of tech unicorns headquartered here for the region and continued strong investments in startups this year despite the ongoing pandemic,” he said.

Singapore has embarked on initiatives to build digital bridges to harness such opportunities, Mr Chan pointed out.

These ranged from government-to-government memorandums of understanding to high standard Digital Economy Agreements to establish forward-looking trade rules and collaboration in nascent areas of the digital economy.

In the long term, climate change will also create opportunities, particularly in the green economy, Mr Chan said.

Singapore is keen to work closely with Europe in the area of sustainable development as the region has shown itself to be “a global leader in pushing for a responsible, sustainable economic agenda”.

“We are keen to partner EU businesses to develop a collaborative platform for industry, academia and research institutes to translate European solutions into industry applications that serve regional needs,” said Mr Chan.

“Tapping on Europe and Singapore’s strengths in sustainable development, we can build a green economy, delivering concrete solutions to global challenges.”

On Thursday, EuroCham and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS LKYSPP) announced that they will be deepening collaboration in the areas of executive education and advocacy.

Both signed a memorandum of understanding that covered areas including the development of executive education programmes focusing on the economic, political, technological and social trends of Southeast Asia, as well as the business opportunities, risks and challenges in the region.

Mr Federico Donato, EuroCham president, said it affirmed the importance of collaboration between industry and academia.

“By fostering a collaborative relationship, our members, students and professors benefit from the exchange of professional experience and research expertise, providing an optimal framework for innovation and growth for both parties.”

Mr Francesco Mancini, vice dean (executive education) and associate professor in practice at NUS LKYSPP, said the school will leverage its thought leadership and expertise on policy, governance, and organisational excellence, as well as geopolitics and sustainable development in Asia.

It will support EuroCham’s members and the wider business community “in navigating through a diverse and increasingly complex marketplace, and the challenges of a post-Covid environment”, he added.

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