It is important for Singapore 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 yesterday.
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" 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 and therefore it is important that 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, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, 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 on 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.
OPENING UP MORE OPTIONS
We build up strong economic linkages, not just for commercial reasons, but to diversify our strategic links and open up more options.
SENIOR MINISTER TEO CHEE HEAN, on how Singapore conducts its foreign policy.
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 under way, 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."