Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at 2nd Global eTrade Plenary

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at 2nd Global eTrade Plenary

Mr Eugene Wong, Chairman, CrimsonLogic and GeTS

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentleman,


1. I am pleased to join you this morning for the second Global e-Trade Plenary, and to see such a big turnout.

2. We are living in an era where the effects of technological disruption on Singapore’s economic landscape are ubiquitous, from shaping global production and value chains, to transforming the way companies operate and consumers purchase products.

3. This event is therefore timely, allowing business leaders of key industry stakeholders to convene for an invaluable exchange of ideas on how global trade is being shaped by digitalisation and the adoption of new technologies, as well as the means through which companies can capitalise on new opportunities.


4. We are currently operating in an increasingly volatile and complex global environment, where challenges are multifaceted.

5. First, global economic growth remains subdued in light of challenging geopolitical developments such as the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China. These tensions, which have since escalated to encompass technology, now further threaten to balkanise the digital space. The fragmentation of the digital space into separate isolated blocs will result in a more complex and costly trading environment for everyone. While the US and China have reached an interim “phase 1” agreement, much uncertainty still remains, as not only have the exact terms not been finalised, but both parties may yet reject this partial deal. In some sense, this goes against the current trend of digitalisation bringing the world closer together by removing borders and increasing connectivity.

6. Second, the advent of new and sophisticated technologies, as well as digitalisation have resulted in companies around the world facing technology-related disruptions at an accelerating pace. Companies today are witnessing rapid shifts in global trade flows and production patterns, and have to undertake frequent and, at times, large scale transformations of their business and production models just to keep up.


7. Notwithstanding these challenges, we must be alert to opportunities.

8. As global trade becomes increasingly complex and challenging, Singapore-based companies can leverage on digitalisation and novel technologies to improve their global trade operations. First, digitisation will enable our companies to transcend Singapore’s geographical constraints to further internationalise into new markets, while new technological tools such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help companies improve the efficiency of their operations by allowing them to optimise their supply chain planning and management across logistics, compliance, risk management and finance requirements.

a. For instance, Global eTrade Services (GeTS) has utilised advanced technologies like AI to develop an integrated platform for companies like shippers and freight forwarders to better manage their supply chain activities.

b. Further, the Commodities Intelligence Centre (CIC), which is Singapore’s first physical commodity B2B e-trading platform driven by block-chain, enables our local logistics players such as PIL Logistics and YCH Group to connect with commodity traders from all over the world to provide integrated supply chain solutions such as shipping, freight forwarding and warehousing.

c. Local start up Janio Technologies has leveraged on technological tools to connect e-commerce marketplaces, business owners and logistics players from all around Southeast Asia’s e-commerce ecosystem onto a single digital platform. Such platforms provide Singapore-based companies with deeper connectivity into the growing regional e-commerce ecosystem.

9. Such initiatives are timely given that the e-commerce sector continues to be an immense source of business prospects and expansion opportunities, especially in Southeast Asia. The confluence of a burgeoning middle-class, proliferation of smart phones and increased adoption of digital services in Southeast Asia continue to spur the growth of e-commerce in the region.


10. To ensure that our companies are well placed to fully tap on the opportunities arising from the digital revolution, the government continues to support companies on three fronts:

a. Strengthening our fundamentals to distinguish ourselves;

b. Promoting digital connectivity; and

c. Building up our companies’ and workers’ capabilities.
11. First, Singapore’s reputation as an international logistics hub with world-class sea and air ports should not only be attributed to our inherent strategic location at the crossroads of global trade routes, but also to our long-term fundamentals comprising:

a. Our state-of-the art infrastructure;

b. excellent connectivity in supply chains and distribution networks;

c. a skilled workforce; and

d. a pro-business environment governed by the rule of law.

These aspects have allowed Singapore to emerge as the world’s most competitive economy in 20191. We must however, not rest on our laurels, and continue to strengthen these fundamentals.

12. Second, Singapore continues to explore ways to expand our digital reach with like-minded partners to establish new, international approaches to promote deeper global digital integration and connectivity.

a. On the multilateral front, Singapore is a co-convenor of the Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce (JSI) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) together with Japan and Australia. We are also working to build a network of Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs) to foster greater cooperation, regulation and connectivity within the digital economy. This includes working closely with Chile and New Zealand on a Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, which is targeted to be concluded by the end of this year.

b. On the regional front, the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework Action Plan (2019 – 2025)

(DIFAP) was adopted last month at the 51st ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. Among others, DIFAP will facilitate seamless trade and digital payments, and protect data to support digital trade.

c. Here in Singapore, we have the Networked Trade Platform (NTP) and CALISTA. The NTP allows us to link up with partner countries to provide a single trade window for companies. Under the NTP, electronic forms are exchanged in a seamless manner. This will help exporters around the world to reduce risk and uncertainty, and manage their operations with greater accuracy. CALISTA, which is AI-driven, uses automation to streamline processes, documents and data in the flow of goods within and across countries and regions. These are open, regional and global platforms that improve trade and operational efficiency.

13. Third, to ensure that Singapore-based companies remain competitive in the new digital frontier, the Singapore government will continue to support our companies and workers to build up their capabilities to leverage these technologies.

a. For example, we have schemes such as Scale-up SG that was launched in July this year, to support local companies with high growth potential to develop into global or regional leaders in their respective sectors. Participating companies undergo a two and a half -year programme that includes courses on management development, business innovation, market penetration and other areas that will help to accelerate companies’ growth.
b. Partnerships are also vital to help companies build capabilities and capture opportunities.

(i) In April this year, the Singapore e-Commerce Enterprise Development consortium was formed to pursue e-commerce opportunities in the European market.

The consortium, which is supported by Enterprise Singapore, comprises 13 Singapore companies specialising in solutions such as on-line marketing, channel management, e-payment systems and logistics management services. Together, they can provide end-to-end cross border e-commerce solutions to European brands and retailers looking to access the growing Southeast Asian market. The consortium has gained good traction in Europe, and there are plans to expand the approach to other markets like Japan, Korea and Australia.

(ii) In July this year, Enterprise Singapore launched the Trade and Connectivity Challenge (TCC). The TCC is an industry partnership initiative that brings together six companies in the trade and connectivity ecosystem in a call for new technologies and solutions to resolve operational pain points and/or augment the companies’ growth plans. I am pleased to note that local logistics technology start-up Moovaz emerged as the winner with its proprietary platform that facilitates companies’ efforts to digitalise.

c. Enterprise Singapore, through the Singapore Standards Council, is also developing standards for trade, logistics and transport activities. These standards enhance systems interoperability as cross-border trade increasingly becomes digitalised, and enable our companies to trade more seamlessly with the world.

14. Last but not least, as more enterprises in the trading, logistic and transport sectors adopt technology to augment their operations, our workforce must likewise be empowered to adapt to the evolving needs of these sectors. To facilitate this, we have programmes such as the Redeployment Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Logistics and Supply Chain Professionals that was launched in July this year. This programme helps enterprises undergoing digital transformation to reskill and redeploy existing employees to new roles within the companies.


15. Technology has a pervasive and growing role. For Singapore and our companies to remain competitive and grow amidst the disruptions, we must continue differentiate ourselves from the rest of the competition by our ability to develop, embrace and harness these disruptive technologies in a manner that benefits us.

16. To do so, we must not only hold true to our long term fundamentals, but also continuously build on our new strengths such as extending our digital connectivity and ensuring that our companies and workforce and empowered to face this age of disruption. This will truly allow us to “surf” the wave of digitalisation.

17. Ladies and Gentleman, I wish you a fruitful and insightful time at this year’s Global e-Trade Plenary.
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