Govt-Private sector partnership can help Asean tackle economic challenges: Lim Hng Kiang

SINGAPORE - The private sector plays a crucial role in realising the Asean Economic Community (AEC)'s vision of greater economic integration, the Minister of Trade and Industry (Trade) said on Thursday.

Mr Lim Hng Kiang told Singapore Business Federation (SBF) members and business leaders from Asean and Asean+1 partner economies that strong partnerships between governments and the private sector will better position Asean to tackle emerging economic challenges and drive further integration and growth.

He was speaking at a networking dinner at the Singapore Expo organised by SBF and supported by HSBC Singapore and SingEx.

Mr Lim said that the AEC could raise Singapore's GDP by 3 per cent or more by 2035 through boosting exports, and AEC 2025 will focus on tackling non-tariff barriers which are "often more protectionist, more discriminatory, yet less visible".

Asean is also looking to address emerging trade-related issues relevant to modern business needs, such as in e-commerce, and align regional regulations in the areas of competition policy, consumer protection and intellectual property rights.

The AEC Blueprint 2025 will strengthen the role of the private sector as governments get feedback through the Asean Business Advisory Council (Asean-BAC).

"Being at the forefront of commerce, the private sector is well-placed and often faster at identifying chokepoints and future trends that could impact businesses.

"Our foreign business partners also play an important role in the future of the AEC by providing the bridge between businesses in Asean and overseas markets," Mr Lim noted.

Asean-BAC member Robert Yap said he hoped companies would benefit from the establishment of a single Asean production and market base by 2018, when Singapore will chair both Asean and Asean-BAC.

"Asean trade is on course to double by 2025, fuelling a doubling of its middle class to 120 million," said Mr Steven Cranwell, managing director and head of commercial banking at HSBC Singapore.

He added that this would "unlock the potential of the services sector which is the highest GDP producer for the top six Asean countries" including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.