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Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Inaugural Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation Annual Meeting

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Inaugural Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation Annual Meeting

Co-Chairpersons of the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC), Ms. Chang Kwei Fern and Ms. Jennifer Evans, 

Mr Renny Yeo, Chairman of Singapore Accreditation Council, 

APAC Executive Committee Members, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

1. Good morning.  I would like to start by congratulating everyone on the formation of APAC. The amalgamation of the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC) and the Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (PAC) is a significant milestone as APAC is now the regional entity for accreditation in Asia Pacific. 

A beacon of hope in a challenging trading environment 
 
2. There are dark clouds and thunderstorms in the global economy. Trade tensions and rising risks of protectionism are threatening to disrupt the rules-based, multilateral trading system that has been in place since 1947. There are no winners if the global system breaks down, our markets and supply chains are inter-connected.  This is especially so for small, open economies like Singapore.  

3. In such an environment, the role of Standards & Conformity (S&C) has become even more important. S&C enhances predictability of the trading environment and provides greater certainty through the establishment of common quality assurance guidelines.  It also facilitates the flow of products and services between countries based on Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). 

4. MRAs facilitate international trade because they help businesses save time and resources, and enable them to integrate into global supply chains. Through MRAs, products and services that are tested and certified through accredited conformity assessment bodies can enter the importing country without having to undergo similar assessment procedures again. APAC thus needs to continue to deepen engagements with other international and regional bodies, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, ASEAN and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, to push for wider mutual recognition of accreditation across countries.

Building trust among businesses and consumers 


5. Accreditation is important for two other reasons. First, it helps businesses gain the trust of their consumers by giving them the confidence of the quality and standards of certified products. Besides the quality of products and services, consumers also care about their environmental sustainability and social impact. Accordingly, businesses can leverage on accredited certification as a means to differentiate their products on these dimensions.

6. Let me share an example. As demand for wood, paper and other forest products continues to grow, consumers want assurance that these products are sourced from responsibly managed forests. Companies which source their materials from The Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification members can more effectively market their wood and paper products. 

7. Second, accreditation builds trust between businesses, which in turn reduces transaction costs and promotes more scope for collaboration. By recognising and using reliable suppliers that provide accredited products and services, businesses can reduce the need for in-house inspections. An example is Rolls Royce Singapore, which leveraged on accreditations by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC) to ensure their suppliers adhere to high standards.  Accreditation also helps to provide opportunities for start-ups and SMEs, as it is a quality mark to demonstrate their capabilities when they have yet to establish a track record.  

8. Similarly, Singapore’s healthcare regulator, the Ministry of Health (MOH) streamlined the licence renewal process for clinical laboratories through accreditation. Previously, all clinical laboratories were inspected by the MOH prior to licence renewal. Since May 2018, this process is no longer needed for accredited laboratories, saving them time and money.

Preparing for the Future Economy

9. Technology will continue to be a key driving force for our economy. We will need 21st century standards – such as in privacy protection and connection speeds. I am confident that APAC will be forward-looking and agile to keep pace with these rapid changes and ensure that the standards and accreditation programmes remain relevant to companies looking to position themselves for the digital economy. 

10. In Singapore, we recognise the vital role that accreditation can play in transforming the local Infocomm Media (ICM) industry. In 2014, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) launched the Accreditation@SGD programme to help Singapore-based tech product companies compete in the global market. Through certification in technical areas such as reliability, security and compatibility, Accreditation@SGD helps accredited companies convince both investors and end users of their ability to deliver innovative products. To date, more than 400 projects have benefitted from this programme. 
 
11. There will also be greater emphasis on climate change and environmental impact. APAC can play an important role in this areas by providing assurance to companies which have enhanced their capabilities and business models to meet these standards. I believe it is possible for businesses to do well while doing good for society and the environment, these goals are not mutually exclusive.  

12. One such global initiative is the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) which was adopted by the 39th International Civil Aviation Organisation Assembly in 2016. To help companies meet the CORSIA standards, SAC worked with the regulator – the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, end users and verification bodies (VBs) to launch a new accreditation programme in August last year. SAC will continue to accredit more VBs and apply for recognition for CORSIA accreditation under the International Accreditation Forum’s Multilateral Recognition Arrangement. 

Conclusion

13. In an interconnected world, accreditation bodies cannot work alone.

(a) You need to build trust between industry and regulators; and between businesses and consumers. 

(b) You have to strengthen your collaboration with key partners to develop accreditation solutions which will support future innovation and enterprise growth.

(c) You must deepen your engagements with international and regional bodies to push for wider mutual recognition of accreditation across countries, as this will help to promote trade and investments, and reinforce the benefits of a multi-lateral, rules-based global system. 

14. Together, we can achieve the goal of ‘accredited once, accepted worldwide’. 

15. I wish everyone a fruitful discussion at the inaugural APAC meeting.  Thank you. 
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