Comments on digitalisation by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Group of 20 (G-20) leaders’ summit in Bali this week drew attention to the need to strengthen the economic underpinnings of the global system even as it is tested by political and strategic differences among the key powers. The clear message is that countries should improve how cross-border rules, standards, data frameworks and policies work together to make doing business easier, so as to create opportunities for cooperation in digitalisation. Singapore, on its part, has signed digital economy agreements with Australia, South Korea and Britain, and hopes to expand that network over time. Mr Lee’s comments should resonate more widely.
The G-20, which comprises 19 major advanced and emerging economies and the European Union, held its first summit in 2008 in response to the financial crisis that threatened to engulf the global economic system. Since then, G-20 summits have marked the rhythms of the world as it moves from one test to another. Last year’s gathering in Rome provided no foretaste of this year’s meeting, one scarred by member-state Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in violation of the Charter of the United Nations – where Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. The resultant food and energy crisis has affected all nations and made it even more necessary to defend the multilateral world order that protects weaker nations from powerful ones.