SINGAPORE - There is economic uncertainty currently but Singaporeans should not be afraid, only alert, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday morning (June 26).
This is because they have the fundamentals and economic strategies to tap opportunities, he added.
Speaking at the National Centre for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Executive Forum, Mr Chan noted that global growth is expected to slow, while uncertainties and downside risks remain in the form of trade tensions, slowing growth in China, Brexit-related uncertainties, and pressures on the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Weaker global demand is expected to weigh on Singapore's growth this year, with recent data suggesting that outward-oriented sectors will likely remain weak, he added.
But, Mr Chan said: "We continue to be a safe harbour for companies looking to invest in the region and are seen as a hub for talent, intellectual property protection, innovation and research and development. We maintain a principled stance on issues even in an increasingly polarising environment due to ongoing trade tensions and continue to stand for free trade."
To ensure a predictable trading environment, Singapore is working to uphold the rules-based international trading system, with a priority to work with like-minded partners, Mr Chan said.
For instance, Singapore is playing a role in ongoing discussions on the reform of the WTO to ensure it remains relevant, and working on creating new rules on e-commerce with Australia and Japan.
Singapore is also investing heavily in educating and training a skilled workforce that can take advantage of new opportunities created, but companies and workers also have a part to play, he said.
"Companies must similarly invest in their own training structures and processes to ensure that potential employees have the right skills for the job," he said.
"Businesses also need to expand their horizons and venture into new emerging markets to fully tap on the opportunities in the global economy. They need to be ready to take the risk, and the Government will do what we can to help support the internationalisation of our companies."
Workers must also be ready to seize new chances and adjust to change.
Mr Chan said: "We are looking to ensure that our skilled workforce can adapt and take advantage of the opportunities we create."
The event gathered industry leaders, policymakers, and academics to discuss the opportunities and challenges in international trade and workforce development in today's digital economy.
In his keynote address, Mr Chan said business leaders have an important role in helping shape their respective governments' stance towards digital integration and the upholding of a global rules-based economy.
"For example, digitalisation and the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence will not only create new business prospects but also allow businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, to improve productivity, scale up and internationalise into new markets more easily and quickly. The potential is tremendous and our people must be ready."
Mr Chan said that some governments still look at the digital economy through conventional lens and see data as a tangible commodity.
"The more we allow the free flow of data... the greater the opportunities for the global economy in the next lap. However, we run the risk that if we employ the wrong concept...we will be the poorer for it."