SINGAPORE - Even as Asean governments pursue economic cooperation, businesses must do their part to encourage such moves by accepting more competition at home in return for access to markets in other countries, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Nov 12).
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the two-day Asean Business and Investment Summit, he extolled the benefits of economic openness, which reduces barriers and costs for businesses.
"The more integrated and open our markets are, and the more conducive our rules and business environments to foreign investment, the larger the pie will grow, and the more we will all benefit," he said.
But despite wanting to expand overseas, PM Lee said, businesses are not always supportive when it comes to opening up their own domestic markets to foreign competition.
They may lobby governments to impose regulations or keep industries closed to protect themselves, he said.
"But having benefited from Asean integration and open and connected economies, our businesses should be prepared to adapt to and accept more competition in their home markets in exchange for more access to markets in other Asean countries."
PM Lee was speaking to some 1,000 regional policymakers and business leaders attending the summit, organised annually by the Asean Business Advisory Council (ABAC) on the sidelines of the main Asean Summit.
These meetings cap Singapore's chairmanship of Asean before it is passed on to Thailand.
On Monday, PM Lee noted that ABAC is working to improve physical and digital interconnectivity in the region, such as technology to improve supply chains and logistics.
He also encouraged businesses to take full advantage of the council's recommendations on digital transformation and expand their regional footprint.
"Asean has great potential, but fully realising it depends on whether we choose to become more integrated, and work resolutely towards this goal in a world where multilateralism is fraying under political pressures," he said.