In an unique interview with New Europe, Dr. Tan See Leng, Singapore’s Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Commerce and Trade, mentioned a number of present key international commerce points shortly after a latest Belt and Highway Summit that organized by the regional administration in Hong Kong.
New Europe (NE): How would you consider the present commerce relations between Singapore/ASEAN and the EU?
Tan See Leng (TSL): Singapore and the EU are vital commerce and funding companions. Our economies are deeply intertwined, anchored by substantive commerce, funding and people-to-people ties. The EU is Singapore’s 4th largest buying and selling associate for items and 2nd largest buying and selling associate for providers. The EU can also be Singapore’s 2nd largest international investor. Singapore, in flip, is the EU’s 2nd largest ASEAN buying and selling associate for items and third-largest Asian investor. We host over 11,000 EU corporations, and lots of Europeans name Singapore their dwelling, which provides to the vibrancy of our cosmopolitan society. We get pleasure from robust bilateral financial relations, underpinned by a shared curiosity in upholding the open and rules-based buying and selling system, in addition to the EU-Singapore Free Commerce Settlement (EUSFTA) which entered into power on November 21, 2019. The EUSFTA is the primary FTA between the EU and an ASEAN member state. Along with offering elevated market entry and addressing non-tariff boundaries, the EUSFTA has provisions to handle Twenty first-century commerce challenges and incorporates robust guidelines on commerce and sustainable growth, together with the safety of labour rights and the surroundings. The EUSFTA alerts the EU’s dedication to step up its engagement with Southeast Asia. The settlement serves as a strategic pathfinder for an eventual ASEAN-EU FTA, which can improve region-to-region connectivity and current each side with the chance to discover cooperation on points past COVID-19, corresponding to guaranteeing provide chain continuity and selling digital connectivity to enhance ASEAN and the EU’s respective restoration efforts.
NE: Which components can be vital for WTO reforms?
TSL: As a small and open financial system, Singapore strongly helps an open, rules-based multilateral buying and selling system. The WTO has underpinned a long time of prosperity on the planet because it was established in January 1995. Its predecessor, the Normal Settlement on Tariffs and Commerce, had finished the identical within the post-war interval between 1947 and 1995. The WTO stays the cornerstone of Singapore’s commerce coverage and is the first discussion board for Singapore to advance and defend our commerce pursuits. Singapore will proceed to work with different WTO members to revitalize its negotiating operate and replace WTO guidelines in order that they’re related for the trendy financial system. For instance, Singapore, along with co-conveners Australia and Japan, launched the Joint Assertion Initiative on Digital Commerce in December 2017. The JSI outlines the intention to develop multilateral guidelines on the trade-related features of digital commerce. The WTO additionally must strengthen its dispute settlement mechanism. A two-tiered dispute settlement mechanism, together with a well-functioning Appellate Physique, is essential to make sure multilateral commerce guidelines are enforceable for all WTO Members, large or small, for a predictable international commerce surroundings. Singapore is dedicated to working with different WTO members to discover a everlasting answer to the deadlock on appointments to the Appellate Physique. As well as, we are going to work to strengthen the monitoring operate of the WTO to make sure commerce insurance policies and measures of WTO members are clear, particularly amidst crises such because the COVID-19 pandemic. This can contribute to a secure international buying and selling surroundings for companies.
NE: How does Singapore go about balancing its commerce relations with the US and China?
TSL: The US and China are vital financial companions to all international locations all over the world and their commerce actions have far-reaching implications. It’s due to this fact vital that the US and China develop a framework for a constructive and secure bilateral relationship. As soon as once more, as each a small and open financial system, Singapore is extremely depending on commerce with the remainder of the world, together with with the US and China, that are the world’s two largest economies. The US is our largest international investor, whereas China is Singapore’s largest export market and prime funding vacation spot. Singapore maintains good buying and selling relations with each the US and China with in depth financial and people-to-people ties in each international locations. We are going to proceed to work to mitigate the affect of the continuing commerce tensions by constructing on our sound financial fundamentals:
- We are going to proceed to broaden our commerce networks and search out new alternatives and markets. Right this moment, we’ve got 26 FTAs with our main companions which characterize over 85% of world GDP. As vital commerce companions for Singapore, we’ve got a bilateral FTA with the US, the US-Singapore FTA (USSFTA), whereas China and Singapore are signatories to the China-Singapore FTA (CSFTA), ASEAN-China FTA (ACFTA), and the Regional Complete Financial Partnership (RCEP).
- We’re making good progress in investing in new areas of development, such because the digital and inexperienced financial system. Singapore is investing in digital infrastructure, establishing governance frameworks that help cross border knowledge flows, and strengthening the digital capabilities of our companies and folks. To work in direction of internet zero emissions, Singapore launched the Singapore Inexperienced Plan 2030 in February 2021, a whole-of-nation motion that charts formidable and concrete sustainability targets over the subsequent 10 years.
- We are going to stay dedicated to analysis and growth, to propel our financial system in direction of a knowledge- and innovation-driven one.
- We are going to proceed to welcome international expertise proceed to welcome international corporations, together with these from China and the US, to function right here so long as they abide by Singapore’s rule of legislation.
NE: How can we deal with the challenges of world commerce, particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic?
TSL: Commerce was badly impacted by COVID-19, however the international restoration has been sooner than most anticipated. The WTO estimates that world merchandise commerce would enhance by 8.0% in 2021, after falling by 5.3% in 2020. A part of this might be pushed by rising shopper demand in Europe and North America, stimulated by their governments’ fiscal help for COVID-19. Companies commerce, particularly tourism, stay badly hit. Nevertheless, we’re prone to see sustained development in providers commerce in the long term, because the pandemic has accelerated automation and digitization in providers industries that have been beforehand lagging. Step one to restoring international commerce needs to be to assist all international locations emerge from this healthcare disaster, as it is a prerequisite to financial restoration. As such, Singapore has been actively contributing to international efforts to get well from the pandemic, corresponding to donating provides and vaccines by way of the COVAX program. We should additionally proceed to decide to retaining international commerce and provide chains open. We witnessed how export restrictions imposed through the pandemic disrupted provide chains and harmed each the worldwide financial system and the worldwide combat towards COVID-19. Even on the worst intervals of the pandemic, Singapore remained dedicated to upholding an inclusive and secure buying and selling surroundings and has continued pursuing commerce agreements with like-minded companions and saved our buying and selling traces open all through the pandemic. Regardless of rising requires protectionism and populism within the developed world, there may be nonetheless robust worldwide help totally free commerce and globalization amongst many international locations, as seen by regional FTAs corresponding to RCEP and the Complete and Progressive Settlement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. By common dialogues, Governments and companies can even work collectively to strengthen provide chain resilience. We must also renew our dedication in direction of multilateralism and strengthen establishments such because the WTO. Singapore urges all WTO members to exhibit their commitments to the Settlement on Commerce Facilitation as shortly as doable so that companies and economies can profit, and is dedicated to progressing negotiations on the WTO on a spread of vital points such because the Joint Assertion Initiative on Digital Commerce, of which Singapore is a co-convenor together with Australia and Japan.