Room for more S'pore-Argentina tie-ups

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking at the Argentina-Singapore business forum, on Aug 1, 2018.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking at the Argentina-Singapore business forum, on Aug 1, 2018. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE EMBASSY OF THE ARGENTINE REPUBLIC

Both sides can step up collaboration in food trade and technology, says Chan Chun Sing

There is potential for Singapore and Argentina to collaborate more in the areas of food trade and technology, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday at an Argentina-Singapore business forum to promote opportunities for companies from the two countries.

Economic relations between Singapore and Argentina have been growing in recent years, he added, with bilateral investment flows reaching nearly $600 million by the end of 2016.

Trade in services that year also accounted for more than $200 million.

Last year, bilateral trade in products such as motor vehicle parts, insecticides and frozen fish hit $240 million, Mr Chan said.

But there can be greater economic collaboration, especially in the area of food trade, he added.

"Argentina is one of the world's leading exporters of meat, in particular beef, and fresh produce and seafood. Singaporeans love to eat, and we are always on the lookout for new and high-quality food and food products."

There are also opportunities for partnership in technology.

Mr Chan said: "Argentina is emerging as a key global technology hub and source of exciting technology solutions.

"Argentina is home to four of Latin America's six 'unicorns' - technology start-ups valued at more than US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion)."

For its part, Singapore can help Argentina to connect with other countries in Asia, besides being a market for products, Mr Chan said.

Singapore firms have made strategic investments in Argentina.

For the past decade, the Exolgan Container Terminal in Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital, has been operated by PSA International.

Argentina's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Mr Jorge Faurie, said at the forum that Singapore-Argentina relations have been fruitful and friendly for more than four decades.

Mr Gary Loh, chief executive of fruit and vegetable distributor SunMoon Food Company, said the firm started working with suppliers there about five months ago.

"Argentina produces great-quality citrus, especially during the months when they are in season.

"But the biggest challenge is the time difference. Because they are 11 hours behind us, we have to find that narrow window to communicate instantly or wait almost a whole day for replies," he said.

Last week, the Government launched negotiations for a Mercosur-Singapore free trade agreement to offer Singapore and South America greater access to each other's markets.

Mercosur is a South American Customs union that is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The forum yesterday was held at Enterprise Singapore's premises in Bugis.

It was hosted by the Embassy of the Argentine Republic and Enterprise Singapore, a government agency that champions enterprise development.

Later this month, Enterprise Singapore will be organising a food-sourcing mission to Argentina.

The agency will also be facilitating incoming visits by Argentinian food and wine producers.

Mr Jeffrey Loh, director of CS Frozen Food, said there will be challenges that need to be overcome.

"It is difficult because Singaporeans are not very familiar with Argentinian products.

"The country is also rather far away and the cost of their products is not low.

"But I will definitely be keen to see more Argentinian businesses coming in," he said after attending the forum.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'Room for more S'pore-Argentina tie-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe