Active policies needed amid global frictions: Tharman

Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said that policymakers must ensure more active domestic policies to help those who lose out in market competition, noting that there is still strong support for free trade in the developing and advanced world despite current global frictions.

Mr Tharman was speaking at a panel discussion this week on The Future Of Trade Rules at the Paris Peace Forum (PPF).

He also discussed the importance of plurilateral negotiations and agreements, bringing together a "coalition of the willing", as a practical way to move beyond the impasse at the World Trade Organisation, according to a press release issued by the Prime Minister's Office yesterday.

Mr Tharman said Singapore and France were both playing active roles in taking this forward in the spheres of e-commerce and artificial intelligence (AI) governance.

He also pointed out that trade agreements had to increasingly consider environmental concerns, but trade remained a powerful vehicle to promote productivity growth in the developing world, which was itself critical in moving towards more environmentally friendly practices.

The panel was moderated by PPF president Pascal Lamy. The other panellists at the forum, held on Monday and Tuesday, were the French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire, executive director and chair of the International Trade Centre Arancha Gonzalez, editor-in-chief at Caixin Media Hu Shuli and deputy director-general of the World Trade Organisation Alan Wolff.

Mr Tharman visited Singapore's booth at the forum together with Latvian President Egils Levits and his adviser on smart technologies, Mr Rolands Lappuke.

The booth - Singapore's Approach To Human-Centric Artificial Intelligence - showcased the Republic's initiatives to encourage innovation in and the adoption of AI, while addressing the ethical, regulatory and governance challenges arising from its use.

While in Paris, Mr Tharman also met Mr Le Maire and Minister for National Education and Youth Jean-Michel Blanquer.

Mr Tharman and Mr Le Maire discussed issues pertaining to international corporate tax reforms, and reaffirmed the interest for both countries to collaborate on AI governance and cyber security.

Mr Tharman and Mr Blanquer discussed opportunities for further collaboration in technical and vocational education and training, including in third countries, and the lessons learnt from ongoing education initiatives in Singapore and France.

The PPF, an initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, aims to encourage multilateralism and collective action.

Its focus this year was on various themes, including development, the environment, new technologies and education.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2019, with the headline 'Active policies needed amid global frictions: Tharman'. Print Edition | Subscribe