Free trade agreements (FTAs) are important in helping businesses lower their costs and explore new markets and models, a need that has been made even more urgent by the Covid-19 pandemic, said Nominated MP Janet Ang.
She was responding in Parliament yesterday to two ministerial statements on FTAs and foreign manpower.
Ms Ang, who is also a council member of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), said: "Trade, along with investments into Singapore, will drive our economic recovery and the resumption of business activities post-Covid-19 even as we restlessly reinvent our industries, innovate ideas, products, services and business models, to emerge stronger post-pandemic."
In fact, despite the pandemic, Singapore's total services trade exports last year amounted to $259 billion, with China, the United States, the European Union and Malaysia as the top trading partners.
She added: "International trade not only provides us with the products that we import and consume, but also connects us to the global market that supports our businesses and sustains our economy, creating the good jobs that Singaporeans have enjoyed in the past and aspire to for the future."
Firms also stand to benefit from FTAs, with businesses gaining preferential market access to major trading partners, while enjoying lowered entry barriers for the export of goods and services.
These pacts also help to protect their investments in other countries. "This strong FTA network can be a tool for businesses, not only in reducing their costs and time-to-market, but also in ensuring a predictable trading environment," she said, adding that FTAs have become more relevant in the pandemic as firms realise the need to build resilience in their business models and supply chains.
SBF chief executive Lam Yi Young said in a statement that foreign manpower is also an integral part of Singapore's workforce, and the majority of firms are committed to recruiting fairly.
"Foreign manpower helps to fill (the gaps) and augment our Singapore core. Having access to sufficient manpower and talent is crucial to the success of Singapore businesses."