MTI to Singapore firms: Tap markets in Central Asia

Local firms have great opportunities to expand into markets in Central Asia, said a senior Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) official.

"Our companies tend to be more familiar with Asia, and developed markets in the United States and Europe. Central Asia tends to be viewed more as 'frontier markets'," Mr Luke Goh, deputy secretary of trade at MTI, told a briefing yesterday. Central Asia stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east. Mr Goh cited a potential free-trade agreement between Singapore and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) that could give local businesses access to a market of 180 million people with a combined economic output of $6 trillion.

The EAEU is made up of five countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus. A joint feasibility study on the agreement between Singapore and the EAEU is slated to be completed this year.

To boost efforts in engaging Central Asia and the EAEU, Singapore is taking part in the Astana Expo in Kazakhstan next month, where it will showcase innovative solutions in sustainable energy, said MTI in a statement.

The Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore also plans to organise a four-day business mission to Kazakhstan in July to explore opportunities in energy and other sectors. The MTI noted that within Kazakhstan, sectors such as education, oil and gas, engineering, urban solutions and master planning would be areas of opportunity for local firms. Kazakhstan is Singapore's largest trading partner in Central Asia, with bilateral trade in goods between the two countries amounting to $23.5 million last year.

Singapore's exports to Kazakhstan that year were valued at $18.7 million, comprising mainly lubricating oil, magnetic stripe cards and floating docks.

Singapore's direct investment into Kazakhstan was $180 million as at 2015, while foreign direct investment from Kazakhstan into Singapore amounted to $1.8 billion, concentrated in the financial and insurance services sector. Companies with ventures in Kazakhstan include ST Engineering, ST Electronics, Surbana Jurong, and Educare.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'MTI to Singapore firms: Tap markets in Central Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe