Singapore trade associations play critical role in helping firms tap opportunities from digitalisation: Chan Chun Sing

Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing speaks at the opening ceremony of SCCCI's live streaming studio at the Trade Association Hub in Jurong on Feb 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Trade associations and chambers (TACs) here can do more to help companies tap opportunities that arise from digitalisation and improve their capabilities, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Feb 12).

They play a critical role in the national effort to introduce firms, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to new technologies, and to help them adopt these, he added.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (SCCCI) live streaming studio at the Trade Association Hub in Jurong, on the first day of the Chinese New Year.

The studio is an example of what TACs can do on this front, to help companies navigate challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, added Mr Chan.

SCCCI president Roland Ng said the studio expects to support live streaming for up to 50 activities in its first year, including trade associations' annual general meetings, product launch events and international seminars.

On Friday, a memorandum of understanding was also signed between SCCCI and five organisations and trade associations - Business China, Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association and Textile and Fashion Federation (Singapore) - to broaden and popularise the use of live streaming.

The success of businesses and their readiness to be part of the new economy are in the hands of the TACs, said Mr Chan.

"The TACs are determined to build up substantial capabilities that can value-add to the local enterprises both in Singapore and beyond Singapore, so I have full confidence that the TACs are on the right track," he added.

Strengthening digital capabilities will help Singapore position itself as a critical node in the global production and supply chain, said Mr Chan.

He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the move towards a new economy where technological advances have led companies to review business strategies and processes, with some considering the continued need for regional hubs while others relocated their supply chains closer to the demand markets.

"With the increased fragmentation and potential bifurcation of the global system, we are likely to see a further reorganisation of global production and supply chains," said the minister.

"Is there still a role for business hubs like Singapore in a Covid and post-Covid world?"

Mr Chan said he was confident there will still be hubs, but the nature of these hubs will have to change.

In Singapore's case, it will have to add value by not just being a location for businesses to trade through, but as a leverage point that enables regional and global businesses to grow and succeed. "Our strategy is to see how we can anchor both international and local companies in such critical nodes in the global value chain in order for us to drive the next lap of growth," he said.

"This concept will be applied across current conventional industries and new and emerging industries, including urban solutions, environmental sustainability, agri-tech, clean energy, and so forth."

A memorandum of understanding was signed between SCCCI and five organisations and trade associations at the Trade Association Hub on Feb 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The Government has made efforts to help businesses go digital, he added.

It has been forging new trade rules in forward-looking areas such as data, finance and technology through Digital Economy Agreements, and pursuing an innovation-led economy that takes advantage of technological advancements to transform products and production lines, he said.

"At the company-level, we will have to double down on efforts to support our local enterprises in gaining e-commerce capabilities and maximising their growth opportunities in the digital world," said Mr Chan.

This includes schemes like the Grow Digital initiative launched in June last year to help SMEs seize business opportunities in overseas markets via digital platforms. Over 1,800 enterprises are now transacting on e-commerce platforms supported by the initiative.

The Government has also been strengthening Singapore's digital infrastructure. This includes investing in digital connectivity, data analytic and computing capabilities, payments systems and new business innovation, added Mr Chan.

"The digital world presents fresh opportunities that are up for grabs for those who are willing to try. Technology is neutral, whoever that can master the technology best, will win."

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