SINGAPORE - Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Jan 26) urged Singapore's students and businesses to look beyond the United States' East Coast and West Coast regions for opportunities and exposure.
He made this pitch at a webinar organised by the US Embassy in Singapore, which aims to connect South-east Asia-based tech companies with opportunities in the US.
He said: "I always tell people that the US has 50 states, and each state has a slightly different character and its own business opportunities that we should not gloss over.
"And this is where the agencies that help bring our companies overseas like Enterprise Singapore can help by linking up with equivalent associations at a state or national level."
He added that Singapore is also placing greater emphasis on the exposure given to students in the education system of various cultures beyond Singapore, so that they can bring, as workers in time to come, a greater appreciation of the challenges and opportunities in these markets.
The East Coast and West Coast regions are where the most well-known US cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are located.
When asked by US Department of Commerce senior commercial officer Christopher Quinlivan, the moderator, for his impressions of the business climate in other less well-known areas in the US, Mr Chan pointed to the south-eastern state of Georgia, where he spent half a year in the early 1990s training as a regular in the Singapore Armed Forces.
Mr Chan said: "Two years ago at the end of 2019, I went back to Georgia, drove around the place, and a lot of the places (like state capital) Atlanta have been transformed, and are going into technological areas.
"So Georgia is not just a (predominantly) agricultural state where people are not doing any of the high-tech stuff. That's the totally wrong impression."
During the webinar, titled SelectUSA Tech Asean 2021, Mr Chan also reiterated the Government's strategy to bring about greater digitalisation in the economy, and how Singapore is keen to work with the US to come up with a set of shared rules that enables the flow of finance and data between the two countries.
In particular, he expressed hope that the US and Singapore will soon be able to get a bilateral digital economy agreement "off the ground".
"We see (such agreements) as modular, and not like conventional trade agreements where you must agree on everything before (the agreement) is finalised," Mr Chan said.
He cited the secure flow of data and payment systems as examples of areas useful for businesses where modules can be built first.
"This allows us to develop the new rules for the new economy which will give great certainty and confidence to our business communities," he said.
Singapore has inked digital economy agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Chile, and is in talks with Britain and South Korea.
On Monday, Mr Chan outlined a new 10-year plan to grow Singapore's manufacturing sector by 50 per cent and maintain its share of about 20 per cent of gross domestic product.
The plan will raise the sector's global competitiveness and create more high-skilled jobs by attracting to Singapore the best companies in niche areas, helping local enterprises grow their capabilities, and widening the talent pipeline from polytechnics and universities.