The Brexit episode is not an isolated incident, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday as he called on governments to address the impulse of those feeling marginalised by globalisation to turn inwards.
Speaking at the biennial Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Summit, he urged them to find ways to assure and help their citizens thrive in an open economy and society.
Noting the summit's theme of promoting connectivity, he said he welcomed it, but the call comes at a time of "increasing question marks about the benefits of globalisation".
Greater connectivity has brought prosperity and progress in many countries and improved people's lives, but there is a growing backlash worldwide by those who feel that they have been left behind, said Mr Lee.
This unease with globalisation was expressed starkly in the Brexit referendum on June 23, when British voters chose to leave the European Union (EU).
"While these feelings are understandable and natural, governments have to address the impulse to turn inwards," said Mr Lee.
Meanwhile, he felt that there is still room to grow connectivity although the world is more connected than ever before by air travel, the Internet and the exchange of technology, among other things.
In trade, for instance, Singapore hopes to work towards being part of an interregional free trade agreement (FTA) between Asia and Europe, and will build on existing agreements with the EU and European Free Trade Association, he said.
Before the plenary session, Mr Lee met European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as European Commission vice-president Federica Mogherini.
They discussed the progress of ratification of the recently concluded EU-Singapore free trade agreement.
Mr Lee hoped that the FTA will be ratified soon, and the EU leaders agreed that it will strengthen ties between Singapore and EU member countries.
In air travel, he said, an open skies pact between Europe and Asia will bring the two regions closer.
He also said he was glad the European Commission got the green light to start negotiations on an EU-Asean Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, to reduce restrictions on airlines of both blocs.
Recalling the birth of Asem, which Singapore co-founded with 25 other member-countries 20 years ago, Mr Lee said it was started as "we all believed we would thrive with more connectivity; not less".
"I hope we will continue to explore how we can grow our links with one another, and bring about greater prosperity for our people," he added.
After the session, Mr Lee, along with leaders and delegates from 51 Asian and European nations, watched traditional Mongolian games, music and dance at a Naadam nomadic festival event held to celebrate Asem's 20th anniversary.
On the summit's sidelines, he also met leaders from India, Vietnam, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta, Kazakhstan and Thailand, and government representatives from France, Portugal, Spain and the Philippines.
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