SINGAPORE - Singapore should position itself as a partner for recovery and growth, and foster win-win partnerships with its neighbours.
The country can do so by working with countries in the region at all levels, including through partnerships between businesses, and deepening Singapore's engagement with and knowledge of the region.
These were among the recommendations in a report released on Monday (May 17) by the task force set up to transform Singapore's economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"As a small and open economy, international trade is indispensable to Singapore," said the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST), which was set up last May to guide Singapore's economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
"In a more troubled world, we must resist the tide of turning inwards. We must continue to cultivate strong and meaningful international partnerships with the world."
The task force said Singapore must contribute to South-east Asia in particular, noting that Asean was the third-largest market in Asia after China and Japan in 2019, and the fifth-largest globally.
More platforms should be established to bring interested companies together to engage the region at the business-to-business level, it said.
This would foster continued and effective collaboration, and enable South-east Asia to serve the world in ways that would not have been possible individually, it added.
"The EST believes that partnerships and investments at the business-to-business level should not be solely driven by individual corporate interests," the report said.
"Rather, Singapore businesses should be driven by a longer-term mindset of working with the region, and building regional partnerships from the ground up."
The task force cited the example of the Singapore Business Federation's (SBF) GlobalConnect @ SBF platforms and initiatives, which provide targeted market advice to support companies at all stages of internationalisation, with the end-goal of having them set up in overseas markets.
Through this, the SBF has been actively exploring viable commercial projects that Singapore and Indonesian companies are interested in, the report said.
These include projects in growth areas such as supply chain, healthcare, education, sustainability and technology.
As South-east Asian countries are important digital partners for Singapore, the task force also recommended strengthening digital connectivity across the region, such as through digital economy collaborations.
Noting the Government's ongoing efforts to enhance the interoperability of digital trade standards, the task force said further initiatives on trade facilitation will enhance Singapore's digital integration.
These digital "highways", in addition to Singapore's physical air and sea links, will enable the flow of data and growth of digital trade and commerce, the task force said.
"Businesses can benefit from these through increased efficiencies and lower costs, as well as greater regulatory transparency and cooperation," it added.