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Speech by SPS Tan Wu Meng at the German-Singaporean Trade Forum

Speech by SPS Tan Wu Meng at the German-Singaporean Trade Forum

President of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation Mr Douglas Foo,
President of the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce Dr Claus Trenner, 

Member of the Executive Board of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, Dr Volker Treier

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Thank you for the warm welcome. 

2. It is my pleasure to speak at the inaugural German-Singaporean Trade Forum today. I would like to express my appreciation to the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce for organising this event. 

Upholding the Open and Rules-Based Multilateral Trading System

3. The trading system has been very much in the news and at the top of our minds especially recently. Looking back over the past decades, we can also see that the prosperity and progress around the world have been underpinned by a global consensus on the need to move towards integration, rather than fragmentation.

a. Guided by this belief, we created an open and rules-based multilateral trading system that has served us well. It allowed people to access opportunities from around the world and over the past decades, and lifted millions of people around the world out of poverty. 

b. Time has proven that trade is not a zero-sum game and we are better off when our economies remain open. 

c. Germany and Singapore’s economies are testament to this — our strong and steady economic development rode on the back of robust global trade.

4. However, in recent years, we have seen rising protectionism around the world. 

a. There are many who are asking whether the core values of the multilateral trading system – open, rules-based, integrated – are being weakened and eroded. 

5. Amidst, this global environment, it is now even more crucial for like-minded partners like Singapore, Germany and the EU to stand together and uphold the core values of our multilateral trading system. 

a. Like Singapore, Germany and the EU are fervent proponents of free trade and have been emphasising this message.

b. When our foreign Ministers Heiko Maasand Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan met late last year at the United Nations General Assembly, they took the opportunity to issue a joint declaration that reaffirmed our commitment to free trade, multilateralism, and a rules-based global order.

c. Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved the EU-Singapore FTA and EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement with strong majorities. These actions sent a strong message and a concrete signal of the EU’s support for free trade and the larger vision of bringing the EU and ASEAN regions closer together. 

Going Further and Deeper in Singapore-Germany Bilateral Economic Relations

6. Singapore and Germany can also set an example for upholding free and open trade by going further and deeper in our economic relations. We have made much progress but there is also room for us to do more.

7. First, Singaporean and German companies should utilise the EU-Singapore FTA.
a. It is an ambitious agreement to ensure that companies from both sides have better access to each other’s markets and more opportunities to grow as part of a win-win outcome.

b. We are hopeful that the Council of the EU would conclude the agreement before the end of this year. This is the final step before it can formally enter into force. 

c. By using and benefiting from the agreement, our companies can concretely demonstrate the many advantages of free and open trade.

8. Second, Singapore and German companies can make use of each other’s regional networks to further expand into the EU and ASEAN respectively.
a. For example, you may have heard of the Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific, or ITAP.
i. ITAP is a Hannover Messe Event based in Asia. 

ii. Singapore is the host from 2019 to 2021. This year, the event will be held in October 2019 at the Singapore Expo. 

iii. We will be bringing in participating companies from across Southeast Asia. This will create many opportunities for German companies to showcase their ideas and products to a diverse group of potential partners, customers and suppliers from across the region.

b. Another example is the German Entrepreneurship Asia or GEA.

i. The GEA office was launched in Singapore in July 2018. 

ii. It is jointly supported by Enterprise Singapore and German government-backed startup internationalization programme, German Accelerator, with the objective of facilitating the setup of German startups in Singapore. 

iii. German startups that are part of the programme can receive free mentoring and in turn, gain access to a strong network of business partners and potential investors in our region. This would help them to more easily navigate and grow in the diverse Southeast Asian market.
iv. There are also plans to launch reciprocal landing pads in Berlin and Munich in future, so that Singapore startups can also access the EU market through Germany.

9. Third, forging close business links also serves a larger strategic purpose. Closer business links are a base of support for region-to-region integration between the EU and ASEAN.

a. ASEAN is a bright spot for several reasons. First of all, the total population of people in ASEAN is over 600 million people. Around two-thirds are under the age of 35, so an upcoming demographic dividend throughout ASEAN. With the rising middle class, youthful population and ongoing urbanisation in ASEAN, you can imagine the business opportunities and the many potential business fields and growth that you can find in ASEAN as well. In fact, ASEAN is poised to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030. 

b. If we can connect a vibrant market like ASEAN with the world’s largest single market - the EU - just imagine the synergies, the strengths, the partnerships and benefits that can result to our businesses, our workers and our people.

c. As active members of ASEAN and the EU, Singapore and Germany share a strong appreciation for economic integration and we also know first-hand how this can benefit our companies and in turn, our workers.
d. We must continue to work towards increasing those company linkages between Germany and Singapore, and between the EU and ASEAN. 

Companies’ Role in Keeping Markets Open and Integrated

10. We must also remember that companies play an important role in sustaining support in our communities to keep markets open and integrated.

a. SMEs that succeed in expanding abroad can show how companies of all sizes – not just multinationals but SMEs as well – are benefitting from globalisation and free trade. German Mittelstand are a vibrant example of this. They serve as the backbone of the German economy and have earned a very distinguished reputation as being models for SMEs throughout the world. 

b. While businesses alone cannot solve all the challenges of globalisation, businesses still have a role. Businesses still can help by supplying good jobs, good opportunities, and good skills and training for workers. When businesses uplift our workers, it helps the people of a country experience and see the opportunities of free trade.

c. When companies build linkages with one another through goods, services, and investments, these linkages also promote ties between people across different countries. These exchanges of cultural capital and skills capital, people learning from each other around the world, these are not zero-sum situations. These can make both sides stronger. 

d. When a German company learns more about ASEAN through working with Singapore, through being based in Singapore and connecting to the rest of the region, it strengthens the German economy. It grows Germany’s footprint on the world’s stage. When a Singapore company builds networks in the EU, it also brings Singapore and ASEAN closer to the EU, and creates more opportunities for Singapore workers.


11. In conclusion, both Singapore and Germany are trusted partners to each other in many areas, and we must continue working together to keep on promoting deeper integration between our two countries and our two regions. 

12. As our economies continue to grow and evolve in many new areas such as in the new digital economy or industry 4.0, I urge you to continue seeking new avenues and developing new partnerships with one another even as you reinvest in our workers’ skills and opportunities. I wish you a fruitful forum.

13. Thank you.

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