OPENING REMARKS BY DR KOH POH KOON SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR TRADE & INDUSTRY AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AT THE UAE-SINGAPORE BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT FORUM ON 8 FEBRUARY 2018, 10.00AM, AT SHANGRI LA HOTEL, SINGAPORE
His Excellency Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, Minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates;
Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Singapore Dr Mohamed Omar Abdulla Balfaqeeh;
Ambassador Shamsher Zaman, Chairman of Singapore Business Federation’s Middle East Business Group and Singapore’s Non-Resident Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan;
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am happy to be here at the United Arab Emirates-Singapore Business and Investment Forum jointly organised by the Singapore Business Federation’s Middle East Business Group and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Singapore as part of His Excellency Sultan bin Saeed Al Manosuri’s visit to Singapore.
Economic relations between UAE and Singapore
2. Singapore and the UAE have long enjoyed substantial trade and investment linkages. Our companies have benefitted from the Gulf Cooperation Council-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, the first Free Trade Agreement which the GCC had with a country outside of the Middle East. This Agreement has helped to raise Singapore companies’ awareness of the opportunities in the GCC and more specifically the UAE and has given our companies the confidence to pursue these opportunities.
3. As an indicator of strong bilateral economic relations, in 2017, the UAE was Singapore’s largest trading partner amongst the GCC countries with bilateral trade amounting to S$17.3 billion. Singapore companies have also continued to choose the UAE as an investment destination, bringing the stock of Direct Investment Abroad from Singapore to the UAE to S$2.4 billion as at end-2015. Singapore companies are in a perse range of sectors such as logistics, financial services, hospitality and urban solutions and are also present across several Emirates including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah and Sharjah.
4. However, I believe that more can be done to increase economic cooperation in complementary sectors and we could tap on our current engagement platforms to do so.
Increasing economic engagements with the UAE
5. For example, in Sharjah, Singapore’s economic agency, International Enterprise Singapore has worked with Sharjah’s Electricity and Water Authority to identify opportunities for collaboration between Singapore companies and the related Sharjah government agencies. I met the Chairman of Sharjah’s Electricity and Water Authority when I visited the UAE in October last year and was heartened to hear that Singapore companies were collaborating with SEWA to share their expertise in solutions for water and electricity management and were even exploring collaboration on capacity building for SEWA officials.
6. On the same visit to Sharjah, I also met the Chairman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, Mr Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, who is also here in Singapore today. We had a robust discussion on the Sharjah’s development plans and Singapore companies’ interest in the manufacturing, logistics and hospitality sectors. For example, Singapore Airlines’ has chosen Sharjah its regional cargo hub and Singapore-based company General Hotel Management (GHM) is in partnership with Shurooq to develop Al Bait Sharjah, a luxury heritage resort which will feature a collection of converted historic manor houses.
7. In Abu Dhabi, our economic engagement is anchored by the Abu Dhabi-Singapore Joint Forum which is co-chaired by Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) and Abu Dhabi Chairman of Executive Affairs Authority, His Excellency Khaldoon Al Mubarak. This Forum has brought together government agencies in Abu Dhabi and Singapore to enhance collaboration through policy-level discussions. In 2017, Singapore’s Monetary Authority of Singapore and Abu Dhabi Global Markets signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to strengthen the supervision of cross-border operations of banking institution. The MOU built upon existing cooperation framework to cover a full spectrum of banks, financial markets and even financial technology-related activities.
8. In a contrast, in Dubai, we see more organic business-to-business linkages as many Singapore companies have chosen Dubai as their entry point to the region. Notably, Singapore companies in the consumer sector, specifically in food products, are increasingly seeing value in using the UAE and more specifically, Dubai, as a base to expand to the region because of the stable business environment and the efficiency of Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port – something which I witnessed when I visited the Jebel Ali Port and Free Zone. I also dined at 3FILS a restaurant owned and managed by a Singaporean chef who imports in his fresh produce from Japan daily. The freshness of the sashimi he served was yet another testament to the trust our companies have in Jebel Ali Port.
9. In the food sector, there is also a growing number of Singapore companies that have chosen to tap on the networks available in the UAE by participating in the annual Gulfood expo which connects them to buyers and sellers from around the region and the world.
10. However, these successes we have had cannot be taken for granted. Singapore and the UAE must work collaboratively to ensure that the favourable conditions for bilateral trade and investment remain to ensure that we continue to be the hubs for our respective regions.
11. The UAE has been and will continue to be an important partner for Singapore in the Middle East. Our relations are wide-ranging – from having a Singaporean Chief Justice in the Dubai International Financial Centre to having UAE’s partnership in GlobalFoundries, one of Singapore’s largest wafer-fabrication company – and I see opportunities for our economic engagements to continue growing as our companies find mutually beneficial opportunities in both markets.
12. I hope that today’s forum will provide Singapore companies with more insights about the persified opportunities in the UAE and be a platform for UAE and Singapore companies to continue their familiarisation with one another. I wish everyone a good session.