Singapore is seizing investment opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in sectors such as education, technology and perishable food, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.
He told a business forum yesterday that the country is also well-situated to provide companies from the two regions access to growth opportunities in Asean.
There are now more than 200 Singapore companies with 400 points of presence across Latin America and the Caribbean, double the number from 2015, he noted.
And Singapore companies from diverse sectors are increasing their efforts to tap business opportunities and contribute to the growth of the regions.
Singapore's bilateral trade in goods with Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to $18.1 billion in 2016, said Mr Iswaran, who was speaking at International Enterprise (IE) Singapore's Latin Asia Business Forum.
Cumulative foreign direct investment from these regions into Singapore hit $16.5 billion in 2015.
$18.1b Singapore's bilateral trade in goods with Latin America and the Caribbean in 2016.
$16.5b Cumulative foreign direct investment from these regions into Singapore in 2015.
Singapore's direct investment into Latin America and the Caribbean grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 9 per cent over a five-year period, reaching $6.9 billion in 2015.
A number of Singapore companies have expanded operations into those regions this year. Surbana Jurong set up an office in Mexico, while Ascott will open two Citadines-branded serviced residences in Sao Paulo, the financial centre of Brazil, by 2020.
There has been stronger engagement at the government-to-government level, noted Mr Iswaran, with Singapore recently accepted as an Associate State of the Pacific Alliance in June this year.
"In particular, the re-opening of the Argentinian Embassy in Singapore marks an important milestone that will catalyse closer cooperation," he added.
Mr James Sinclair, Chile's Ambassador to Singapore, said the Pacific Alliance is a market that accounts for 39 per cent of the total Latin America and Caribbean GDP.
"This makes it the world's eighth biggest economy, with its countries accounting for about 50 per cent of Latin American foreign trade," he said. Beyond the traditional sectors of commodities, oil and gas, and infrastructure, partnerships in education, technology and perishable food have also been initiated.
In the past two years, companies such as Educare and Star Publishing have made initial forays into Latin America and the Caribbean, working with both the public and private sectors to adopt Singapore's education framework, teaching methodology and content, Mr Iswaran said.
And e-government solutions company CrimsonLogic inked a memorandum of understanding with the government of Suriname to facilitate customs clearance for trade. CrimsonLogic has expanded into the region over the years, working with the governments in Bolivia, Chile, Panama, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago to help them go digital.
Various governments in the regions are also implementing laws to help transform the banking sector. For example, Mexico is expected to pass a new fintech law that will include crowdfunding, e-money and virtual assets, while Brazil's Central Bank will implement laws to oversee its fintech sector.