Singapore must diversify strategic links as tensions grow between major powers: Teo Chee Hean

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said that like all small countries, Singapore will likely "suffer from collateral damage and could also be drawn in" into conflicts that result from the diversion of trade.
Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said that like all small countries, Singapore will likely "suffer from collateral damage and could also be drawn in" into conflicts that result from the diversion of trade.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore must work hard to strengthen relations with all countries - not just the United States and China - amid growing trade tensions that threaten to divide the world, said Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on Saturday (Aug 3).

Mr Teo told residents at Sengkang Community Club for the Pasir Ris-Punggol National Day dinner that like all small countries, Singapore will likely "suffer from collateral damage and could also be drawn in" into conflicts that result from the diversion of trade.

"Although some countries may benefit in the short run ... all of us will be worse off in the long run," he added.

While Singapore hopes the US and China can build a constructive relationship, Mr Teo acknowledged that the issues will not be resolved easily so it is important Singapore conducts its foreign policy based on principles.

"We build up strong economic linkages, not just for commercial reasons, but to diversify our strategic links and open up more options," he noted while highlighting Singapore's extensive network of free-trade agreements.

Mr Teo, the former Deputy Prime Minister, also outlined three goals for Singapore: to be a nation that progresses together; prepares for the future; and is internationally respected.

Singapore has turned into a modern metropolis by offering equal opportunities to all, with its people sharing the fruits of the nation's development, he said.

To continue this track, the Government is providing more support to ensure every child has a good start in life through more accessible and affordable education. Lifelong-learning is also being promoted to help Singaporeans remain employable for life, he added.

Singapore should also be a nation that is always preparing for the future, said Mr Teo.

"When we look around the world and even in our region today, we see turmoil, political instability, demonstrations and violent clashes on the streets."

But in Singapore, "we are fortunate to have harmony and stability", he said, noting that a key element is the way "we plan and prepare for leadership renewal and succession".

The political transition to Singapore's 4G leadership is underway, and the leaders are capable people who complement one another, he said, adding: "Most importantly, they have their hearts in the right place. They are committed to serve our people, and not any personal agenda.

"I hope that all of you will also get to know them better, and work with them closely to take Singapore forward."