Bloomberg New Economy Forum will be held in Singapore in November, Tesla's Elon Musk to attend

The elite conference has Tesla CEO Elon Musk on its list of high-profile guests.
The elite conference has Tesla CEO Elon Musk on its list of high-profile guests.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Bloomberg New Economy Forum will be held in Singapore from Nov 16 to 19 this year, and gather top businessmen and government leaders to discuss global challenges and solutions.

The elite conference, which went virtual last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has Tesla chief executive Elon Musk on its list of high-profile guests.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Tuesday (May 4) from his office in New York, Bloomberg Media's global CEO Justin Smith said the good experience when Singapore hosted the inaugural forum three years ago, coupled with the country's stringent health protocols, made it an easy decision to hold the event here again.

"We felt very comfortable that the Singaporean Government had a strong handle on these issues, and could deliver on the safety concerns of global leaders coming to Singapore," he said.

The forum - launched by US media mogul Michael Bloomberg in 2018 - was relocated to Singapore from Beijing that year amid the fallout from the United States-China trade war. China hosted the forum in 2019.

Mr Smith said the Republic's tradition of innovation was another major draw.

"It's a place where innovation is encouraged and fostered by the Government, and the talent you're able to attract not only domestically but also internationally is what makes it such an exciting destination," he said.

In addition to high-level discussions, this year's event also features a new virtual session in June called Bloomberg New Economy Catalyst, where 30 top entrepreneurs and innovators from emerging markets will showcase their solutions and share their conversations at the November forum. 

In an interview with ST on Tuesday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing outlined three factors in Singapore's favour as a host venue - its ability to conduct the event safely and efficiently; to contribute intellectual capital to the discussions; and to command trust among participants.

Many see Singapore as a neutral venue and trusted partner, one which takes a principled position on issues, he added. 

"That allows us to have credibility when we speak on certain issues... That helps to engender trust and connect different parties together, and is especially important given evolving geopolitical dynamics across the world."

Climate change top of agenda

Elaborating on the forum's five key pillars - climate, cities, finance, trade and public health - Mr Chan said issues such as climate change and the future of trade are especially relevant to Singapore amid the pushback against globalisation.

"As a small country which relies so much on trade and the world as our hinterland, it is important for us to advance the discussion on how we can collectively reap the benefits of trade; yet at the same time, manage the domestic challenges which various countries, including Singapore, will have to grapple with," said Mr Chan.

Mr Smith pointed out that the forum will be the first gathering of global private sector leaders after the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, to be held in Glasgow from Nov 1 to 12.

"The role of the private sector in solving climate issues, and partnering with the public sector, is essential for meeting goals as a global community around carbon emissions and setting meaningful timeframes," he said.

One way to promote constructive dialogue, he added, is to look for areas of common interest in the US-China relationship, and climate change ranks near the top of the list.

He said another goal of the forum is to expand the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, which was formed in 2015 by the Financial Stability Board. 

Spearheaded by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney and chaired by Mr Bloomberg, the task force issues recommendations to help companies disclose the potential financial impact of climate-related risks and opportunities on their businesses.

Singapore's value proposition

Mr Chan said Singapore's value proposition goes beyond the forum and has changed with the times. 

While the country's political stability and consistent policies remain important, new factors - such as its ability to facilitate physical and digital connectivity - have also proved crucial in making production and supply chains more resilient during the pandemic. 

"People are looking for a safe harbour to mobilise their capital, engage their talent and protect their intellectual property," he added.

He observed that Singapore's role as a regional hub has evolved into more than just an intermediate layer between firms' global headquarters and their local offices.

A regional hub must be a centre of excellence with real capabilities, and which can provide solutions that can be disseminated across the world, he said. 

"This makes it hard for us to be displaced by others that are competing on the basis of just costs or the abundance of resources.

"That's our new proposition. That's the direction in which we are going, which will allow Singapore to strengthen our position in the global landscape."