Global trade is key to S'pore's growth: Halimah

Madam Halimah Yacob said trade enables Singapore to "further capitalise on its comparative advantage and deepen economic linkages with (its) partners".
Madam Halimah Yacob said trade enables Singapore to "further capitalise on its comparative advantage and deepen economic linkages with (its) partners".ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Around 40 MPs from the region among attendees at workshop on international trade

Singapore needs to keep boosting its international trading links, given the global economic slowdown and political uncertainty, according to Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob yesterday.

Madam Halimah told a trade workshop: "As two-thirds of (Singapore's) GDP (gross domestic product) is generated by external demand, we must always be open to trade, innovation, talent and ideas."

She noted how trade enables Singapore to "further capitalise on its comparative advantage and deepen economic linkages with (its) partners".

Madam Halimah was speaking at a parliamentary workshop on international trade organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Around 40 MPs from across the region were among those at the three-day event, which was co-sponsored by the Temasek Foundation and is now in its eighth year.

Mr Keith Rockwell, the WTO's director for information and external relations, underlined the importance of trade, telling participants that it can lift economic growth, lower the cost of goods and services, allow for more consumer choice, and create greater access to new markets for businesses big and small. But he stressed that more needs to be done to ensure that trade becomes more inclusive and that its benefits are more widely shared and understood.

He suggested bringing more developing countries, smaller companies and women entrepreneurs into the trading system.

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As two-thirds of (Singapore's) GDP is generated by external demand, we must always be open to trade, innovation, talent and ideas.''

MADAM HALIMAH YACOB, Speaker of Parliament, to attendees at the workshop.

Governments were encouraged to adopt adjustment programmes to support workers displaced by trade. He cited Singapore's SkillsFuture programme, launched in 2014, that promotes courses and training programmes to enhance the skills of local workers and match them with companies.

Last year, nearly 70,000 Singaporeans enrolled in about 9,000 courses that are designed to enhance skills at the mid-career stage.

Mr Rockwell warned that protectionist policies would "raise prices, stifle innovation and provoke tit-for-tat retaliation from trading partners".

The workshop, which ends tomorrow, also involves regional legislators discussing issues such as the current political context and its impact on international trade, the role of small and medium-sized enterprises in the region, and managing trade disputes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2017, with the headline 'Global trade is key to S'pore's growth: Halimah'. Print Edition | Subscribe