SINGAPORE - Singapore values the continued confidence and trust of British companies in the country as a business hub, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Thursday (Oct 29).
Over 5,000 British businesses are operating in Singapore, with many using the Republic as a base and launchpad to tap the growth potential of South-east Asia, he noted.
In a recent survey by the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore, over three-quarters of respondents said they have no plans to relocate their businesses out of the country, demonstrating their continued and long-term confidence in Singapore.
Speaking at the chamber's annual awards ceremony, which was held virtually this year, Mr Chan said that Singapore will continue to value and welcome international companies and talent in the country. This is even as Singapore will at times make adjustments to its manpower policies in accordance with the economic and employment situation, he added.
"We recognise the role we play as a critical node in the global system and we'll continue to build on the competitive advantages that have brought many of you to Singapore," he said, acknowledging that connectivity and openness are core values here and essential for the country's continued existence.
Mr Chan noted: "I firmly believe that greater interdependence and integration, not fragmentation, is what is needed for a strong global recovery."
There is much the United Kingdom and Singapore can do together to position themselves for recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
For example, UK-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has entered strategic partnerships with leading Singapore healthcare innovators this year, pushing for better health outcomes and new economic opportunities.
In addition, almost half the submissions for research and development projects between Singapore and the Eureka network were by Singapore-UK partnerships, he noted. The Eureka network is an intergovernmental organisation for international innovation cooperation.
"All these reflect the strong mutual interest on the part of Singapore and UK companies to collaborate on projects together," Mr Chan said.
Singapore also looks forward to greater clarity in bilateral economic and trade ties with the UK with the end of the Brexit transition period this year, Mr Chan said.
"This will provide much-needed certainty to businesses in both Singapore and the UK, not just to ensure trade and investment continuity, but also to seize opportunities for growth in the future."
In his speech, Mr Chan also highlighted that Singapore is interested to pursue further digital economy agreements (DEAs) with like-minded economies, including the UK.
The agreements build on Singapore's network of free trade agreements, and aim to establish high-standard rules for issues related to digital trade, including the safeguarding of personal data.
"These DEAs help to foster innovation, and grow trade and investments in new digital industries such as fintech. They also enable companies to use Singapore as a base to access the large and fast-growing South-east Asian digital economy, which is expected to grow to US$300 billion (S$409 billion) by 2025," Mr Chan said.
Singapore has embarked on a series of DEAs with countries such as Australia and New Zealand, and has also launched negotiations with South Korea.
Among the winners announced at the British chamber's 21st annual awards was engine maker Rolls-Royce Singapore, which clinched the Technological Impact of the Year award, and beach-cleaning community Seven Clean Seas, which was named Sustainability Champion of the Year.