OPENING SPEECH BY DR. KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY AT THE GLOBAL E-TRADE PLENARY ON 18 JUL 2018, WEDNESDAY, 9:00AM
"Trading with ASEAN”
Mr. Eugene Wong, Chairman of CrimsonLogic,
Mr. Chong Kok Keong, CEO of GeTS Global,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you here today at the Global e-Trade Plenary. I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you, especially our guests from overseas.
Our operating environment is changing
2. Today’s plenary takes place at an interesting juncture. Global anti-trade sentiments and nativist policies are on the rise, putting tremendous pressure on the traditional ideals of market openness and economic cooperation. At the same time, profound and wide-ranging technological advancements have brought about sweeping changes, disrupting business models but at the same time, creating new opportunities and even new industries.
3. Amidst a more complex and volatile operating environment, ASEAN remains a bright spot in the global economy. ASEAN is the sixth largest economy in the world, with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of around US$2.6 trillion and a collective market of more than 600 million consumers. We have a large and youthful population, a growing, more discerning middle class, and the third-largest labour force in the world.
4. To maximise these new growth opportunities, we must adapt to the changing economic landscape. We must stay resolute in our commitment to integrate ourselves regionally, and one of our efforts is the ASEAN Economic Community. We are also looking at the ASEAN 2025 blueprint to further integration and facilitate even more activities amongst ourselves and with like-minded partners from other parts of the world. We have to take proactive steps in ASEAN to strengthen our global competitiveness as a region. Digital connectivity and innovation are two key enablers that would help us better respond to the demands of the changing economy. Let me elaborate further.
Importance of digital connectivity to strengthen our competitiveness as a trading hub
5. Singapore had launched the wholesale trade Industry Transformation Map (ITM) last year to set out our strategies to prepare the sector to meet the challenges of the future. One of the key strategies identified is to strengthen digital connectivity amongst partners and markets to enhance our competitiveness and attractiveness as a trading hub. Digital connectivity will improve logistics efficiency, strengthen the region’s linkages to global supply chains, and support growth in trade.
6. As ASEAN Chair this year, we are working closely with our ASEAN partners to deepen regional digital connectivity. Let me highlight two initiatives that we are undertaking to ensure that the region remains relevant and well-positioned to seize new opportunities in an increasingly digitalised global economy.
a. First, the ASEAN Agreement on e-Commerce aims to streamline governing trade rules in e-commerce. So that partners have more clarity and transparency in how they can trade with each other on e-commerce platforms. This will help lower operating costs and barriers for companies, allowing them to market their products and services regionally with ease, and making it safer to send and receive electronic payments. This is important for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who can now access a much larger market outside traditional physical reach, without physically having to build a presence overseas.
b. Second, the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework monitors the progress of ASEAN’s digital integration. The framework will enable us to assess and benchmark our digital ecosystem, identify areas for improvement, and facilitate the adoption of new digital integration initiatives amongst stakeholders.
Singapore is committed to develop an ecosystem that supports innovation activities
7. The second key enabler is innovation. Technological advancements and innovative solutions such as block chain technologies and data analytics will transform the way global trade is conducted. To this end, Singapore has been cultivating a strong and conducive innovation ecosystem. With our robust rule of law and deep understanding of best trade practices and protocols, we are a prime location to test bed new and innovative solutions. This was recognised by the Global Innovation Index, which recently named Singapore as Asia’s most innovative country. The Government will continue to build on this strong position on three levels.
8. First, at the government level, Singapore is working with our regional partners on the ASEAN Innovation Network, to strengthen linkages between innovation ecosystems across the region. This facilitates greater collaborations and exchanges of ideas that can enable our companies to co-create and develop innovative solutions.
9. Second, at the industry level, we are working in partnership with companies to drive innovation efforts. Many of you here today are part of this journey with us and our important partners. As part of the wholesale trade ITM, we will be launching a Trade Infrastructure Development Fund (TIDF) later this year. The fund will support innovation activities such as development of business-to-business marketplaces and innovative non-bank trade financing solutions.
10. Third, at the workforce level, we are building a pipeline of future-ready talents that can support our companies’ innovation needs. For example, the Tech Skills Accelerator (TeSA) helps workers acquire the technical skillsets that will be relevant in the growing Digital Economy.
Launch of the GeTS’ Open Trade Blockchain (OTB) Service
11. Today, I am very pleased to witness the launch of GeTS’ Open Trade Blockchain (OTB) service. The GeTs Open Trade Blockchain (OTB) service is a prime example of how we can leverage on innovation and digital connectivity to enable a more seamless, transparent and secure environment for business transactions. An inclusive and extensible block chain service, the platform is centred on an open infrastructure, and can enhance overall efficiency for the exchange of trade-related documents.
12. In closing, I would like to thank Global e-Trade Services for inviting me to witness this momentous milestone development, and wish you success in your latest venture.
13. I wish all of you a fruitful discussion. Thank you.