In an unique interview with New Europe, Dr. Tan See Leng, Singapore’s Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, mentioned a number of present key international commerce points shortly after a current Belt and Road 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 necessary 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 companies. The EU can 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 firms, and lots of Europeans name Singapore their home, which provides to the vibrancy of our cosmopolitan society. We take pleasure in sturdy 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 Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) which entered into power on November 21, 2019. The EUSFTA is the primary FTA between the EU and an ASEAN member state. In addition to offering elevated market entry and addressing non-tariff limitations, the EUSFTA has provisions to handle 21st-century commerce challenges and incorporates sturdy rules on commerce and sustainable growth, together with the safety of labour rights and the atmosphere. The EUSFTA indicators 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 is able to improve region-to-region connectivity and current each side with the chance to discover cooperation on points past COVID-19, reminiscent of making certain provide chain continuity and selling digital connectivity to enhance ASEAN and the EU’s respective restoration efforts.
NE: Which parts could be necessary for WTO reforms?
TSL: As a small and open economic system, Singapore strongly helps an open, rules-based multilateral buying and selling system. The WTO has underpinned many years of prosperity on the planet because it was established in January 1995. Its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, had accomplished 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 rules in order that they’re related for the fashionable economic system. For instance, Singapore, along with co-conveners Australia and Japan, launched the Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce in December 2017. The JSI outlines the intention to develop multilateral rules on the trade-related facets of digital commerce. The WTO additionally must strengthen its dispute settlement mechanism. A two-tiered dispute settlement mechanism, together with a well-functioning Appellate Body, is essential to make sure multilateral commerce rules are enforceable for all WTO Members, huge or small, for a predictable international commerce atmosphere. Singapore is dedicated to working with different WTO members to discover a everlasting answer to the deadlock on appointments to the Appellate Body. In addition, we’ll 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 will contribute to a steady international buying and selling atmosphere for companies.
NE: How does Singapore go about balancing its commerce relations with the US and China?
TSL: The US and China are necessary financial companions to all nations world wide and their commerce actions have far-reaching implications. It is subsequently necessary that the US and China develop a framework for a constructive and steady bilateral relationship. Once once more, as each a small and open economic system, Singapore is very 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 high 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 nations. We will proceed to work to mitigate the influence of the continued commerce tensions by constructing on our sound financial fundamentals:
- We will proceed to increase our commerce networks and search out new alternatives and markets. Today, we’ve got 26 FTAs with our main companions which signify over 85% of worldwide GDP. As necessary 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 Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- We are making good progress in investing in new areas of progress, such because the digital and inexperienced economic system. Singapore is investing in digital infrastructure, establishing governance frameworks that assist cross border knowledge flows, and strengthening the digital capabilities of our companies and other people. To work in the direction of web zero emissions, Singapore launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 in February 2021, a whole-of-nation motion that charts formidable and concrete sustainability targets over the following 10 years.
- We will stay dedicated to analysis and growth, to propel our economic system in the direction of a knowledge- and innovation-driven one.
- We will proceed to welcome international expertise proceed to welcome international firms, together with these from China and the US, to function right here so long as they abide by Singapore’s rule of regulation.
NE: How can we deal with the challenges of worldwide commerce, particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic?
TSL: Trade was badly impacted by COVID-19, however the international restoration has been sooner than most anticipated. The WTO estimates that world merchandise commerce would improve by 8.0% in 2021, after falling by 5.3% in 2020. Part of this is able to be pushed by rising client demand in Europe and North America, stimulated by their governments’ fiscal assist for COVID-19. Services commerce, particularly tourism, stay badly hit. However, we’re more likely to see sustained progress in companies commerce in the long run, because the pandemic has accelerated automation and digitization in companies industries that had been beforehand lagging. The first step to restoring international commerce ought to be to assist all nations emerge from this healthcare disaster, as this can be a prerequisite to financial restoration. As such, Singapore has been actively contributing to international efforts to get well from the pandemic, reminiscent of donating provides and vaccines by the COVAX program. We should additionally proceed to decide to protecting international commerce and provide chains open. We witnessed how export restrictions imposed through the pandemic disrupted provide chains and harmed each the worldwide economic system and the worldwide combat in opposition to COVID-19. Even on the worst intervals of the pandemic, Singapore remained dedicated to upholding an inclusive and steady buying and selling atmosphere and has continued pursuing commerce agreements with like-minded companions and saved our buying and selling traces open all through the pandemic. Despite rising requires protectionism and populism within the developed world, there may be nonetheless sturdy worldwide assist at no cost commerce and globalization amongst many nations, as seen by regional FTAs reminiscent of RCEP and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Through common dialogues, Governments and companies may also work collectively to strengthen provide chain resilience. We also needs to renew our dedication in the direction of multilateralism and strengthen establishments such because the WTO. Singapore urges all WTO members to display their commitments to the Agreement on Trade Facilitation as rapidly as potential so that companies and economies can profit, and is dedicated to progressing negotiations on the WTO on a spread of necessary points such because the Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce, of which Singapore is a co-convenor together with Australia and Japan.