The Covid-19 pandemic has provided more impetus for Singapore to champion integration for the Asean economies, Dr Tan See Leng, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, said yesterday.
"The Asean region, with its promising long-term growth potential... presents multiple opportunities not just for Singapore businesses, but also for foreign direct investment into Singapore," Dr Tan said of the grouping with a population of about 650 million and is the fifth-largest economy in the world.
"With many countries turning inwards, it is even more important now for Singapore and Asean to continue to advance regional integration, to remain committed to an open and rules-based regional economic environment," he added.
Dr Tan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Manpower, was speaking on a panel titled "Capitalising New World Order and Regionalism Amidst More Dynamic Global Relations" at the FutureChina Global Forum held online.
Dr Tan said Singapore is working with Asean to streamline non-tariff measures, starting with those imposed on essential items such as food and medical supplies.
Asean has also put in place cost-lowering measures to help facilitate trade in the region, he said.
One example is the Aseanwide Self-Certification regime, which starts on Sunday.
The regime allows certified exporters to self-certify the origin of their goods and thus enjoy preferential treatment under the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement. It aims to helps businesses save costs as they will not need to apply to the authorities for a hard-copy certificate.
"We are also moving to embark (on more) regional trade agreements so that we can foster closer regional economic integration, at a time when most of the world seems to be going down a more isolationist path," he added.
The panel was moderated by Straits Times associate editor Ravi Velloor.
Also on the panel were Mr Dith Tina, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Cambodia; Dr Randall S. Kroszner, deputy dean of executive programmes and Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Mr Steven Ciobo, Australia's former minister for trade, tourism and investment; and Mr Michael Ding, global executive director of greentech firm Envision Group. Topics covered in the hour-long session included supply chain connectivity, China's economy and the ongoing tensions between China and the United States.