Singapore to continue investing in its intangible strengths such as openness, trust and resilience, says Chan Chun Sing

Mr Chan said that Singapore must resist the pressures to retreat from globalisation. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - Many investors have set up and expanded their businesses here over the years because they see Singapore's intangible strengths, which cannot be easily replicated elsewhere, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday (June 14).

These strengths include Singapore's openness and ability to be trusted, he added, citing how the country did not impose export restrictions or nationalise foreign investments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Chan said: "We kept our production lines open for global supply chains, including critical materials for surgical masks."

Singapore has also worked with companies to increase their production so that global needs could be met.

And it facilitated the continued flow of essential goods and people through its ports and airports.

"Throughout this crisis, we have also continued to show the world they can trust Singapore," Mr Chan said, adding that businesses have noticed.

In the fourth of six national broadcasts by ministers on Singapore's post-coronavirus future, Mr Chan noted: "Just as how we did not restrict exports during the 1970s oil crises, that enhanced our credibility later to establish Jurong Island as a global petrochemical hub.

"When (companies) make their next investments to diversify their global production bases, we will be in the running."

Mr Chan added that Singapore must resist the pressures to retreat from globalisation and erect more protectionist trade barriers, as many countries had done in this crisis.

Remote video URL

"A less connected Singapore means fewer and poorer-quality jobs for us. Even in a more protectionist, less connected world, we can still make a living and more."

For example, capabilities can be built for Singapore to play a critical role in global supply chains for valuable and high-quality products and services.

"We make four out of the world's top 10 drugs, we are the world's seventh largest exporter of chemicals," Mr Chan said.

He also outlined how Singapore has made headway as an advocate of free trade. An initial partnership with Brunei, Chile and New Zealand grew to become the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership that was signed in 2018.

A joint ministerial statement with New Zealand to resist export restrictions and to uphold global supply chains during Covid-19 has drawn 11 countries, and counting, Mr Chan said.

Singapore is also growing its network of digital economy partnerships for companies here to grow their overseas markets.

Talks have concluded with Australia, Chile and New Zealand, with more agreements in the pipeline, Mr Chan said.

Also in the making is the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

It will lower the cost of imports and exports for consumers and producers here, he added. The free trade agreement's (FTA's) signatories include the 10 Asean member states, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Mr Chan said: "These agreements and other FTAs open up new opportunities for our businesses, and will make us a more attractive base for investments to serve the region.

"This will signal to the world our confidence and determination to press on with regional economic integration."

Resilience is another one of Singapore's intangible strengths, Mr Chan said, adding that the quality is a result of networks and the diversification of source markets for supplies: "We will never be able to have everything we would possibly need, for the next crisis."

He noted how the public and private sectors opened new supply lines to bring to Singapore essential goods such as masks, personal protective equipment and test reagents amid the various lockdowns around the world three months ago.

"Many of our supply chains were disrupted, if not broken," Mr Chan said.

Citing companies involved in the effort to bring in supplies - PSA, Singapore Airlines, Sats, ST Logistics, NTUC, Sheng Siong and many more - he said: "Without all these unsung heroes, we would not have been able to live our lives as normally as we did in the last few months."

He added: "We will work to stay connected with the world, even as the world threatens to fragment and regress towards protectionism. Despite our size, we can show the way, if we have good ideas."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.