Open markets Apec's best bet: Minister

The digital economy will play a greater role in job creation while the services sector will become increasingly important for Asia- Pacific countries, said Mr Lim Hng Kiang said yesterday.

The Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) said greater cooperation and open markets are the best options for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) states to achieve their goal of free and open trade.

Mr Lim, who was speaking at the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council-Singapore Conference, noted that since 1994, Apec has recorded real gross domestic product growth of 3 per cent a year, with millions of people pulled out of poverty.

It has made headway on initiatives to help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, improve the inclusion of women and vulnerable communities as well as boost education and training.

But anti-trade sentiment is on the rise amid rising global concerns over sluggish growth, unemployment and immigration.

"Closing borders and turning inwards is not the answer," said Mr Lim, who stressed the need for inclusive growth instead.

He told the forum at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel that focusing on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises will be critical, as they are engines of growth and innovation in Apec, accounting for over 97 per cent of enterprises and 50 per cent of the workforce.

"Apec economies need to continue the dialogue on how we can balance open trade with domestic considerations and make globalisation work better for all," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Open markets Apec's best bet: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe