Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Thank you for the invitation to join you this afternoon.
2. I would like to start by congratulating the Singapore German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (SGC) on its 15th Anniversary in Singapore. Thank you for your good work in driving stronger economic ties between Singapore and Germany over all these years.
3. I have been asked to speak on economic opportunities in a challenging global business environment. I would like to start with three questions for us to ponder on, which we can discuss more later:
a. The first question - what is the role that the EU and its member states including Germany can play within the international system?
b. The second question - why it remains important for the EU and Germany to maintain a significant presence in Southeast Asia?
c. The third question is – what are the specific roles that German businesses can play in this current environment?
d. I’m going to make three simple propositions and then we can discuss them later.
4. First, it is in the interest of the EU and member states like Germany to continue playing a leadership role in updating, uplifting, and upholding the open and rules-based global trading system.
a. In the past few years, the global operating context for businesses has seen rising protectionism. Some people describe this as the “new normal” which means we can no longer take for granted open access to overseas markets.
b. It is in this context that the EU’s trade leadership has become ever more crucial for both the EU and the world.
i. For almost 70 years, the EU has built its peace and prosperity on the back of economic integration and the free, rules-based trading model – both within the European Community and as part of the wider global community.
ii. The multilateral trading system based on these exact principles is no less important to the EU as it is to the global economic community.
iii. As the world’s largest trading bloc and single market, the EU and member states like Germany have the strategic weight and heft to play a leading role in shaping the global conversation on trade.
5. This brings me to my second proposition - that the EU should continue to anchor its presence in Southeast Asia for economic and geostrategic reasons.
a. On the economic front, the opportunities that Singapore and ASEAN present are clear.
i. ASEAN remains a bright spot for economic growth; ASEAN is the fifth largest economy in the world today, and is expected to become the fourth largest by 2030.
ii. The centre of gravity in the economic landscape is increasingly moving towards this part of the world.
iii. It is crucial that EU and Germany companies work to quickly capture and entrench their place in this regional market and not lose their pre-eminence in this market.
iv. Within ASEAN, Singapore is a favourable starting point for many EU and German businesses, given the many similarities in business environment between Singapore and their home countries.
b. On a geostrategic level, the EU and Germany can leverage ASEAN’s support to lead the global trade narrative.
i. ASEAN and the EU. Singapore and Germany. We have all shown ourselves to be likeminded partners committed to pushing for economic integration within our respective regions and globally.
ii. And it has been a fruitful partnership. SGC’s 15th Anniversary this year coincides with a significant milestone in EU-Singapore. The EU-Singapore FTA will enter into force this year, on the 21st November, just two days from now.
iii. This is a tangible example of how the EU and Germany can work together with Singapore and ASEAN to uphold the open and rules-based global trading system, as well as advance our shared economic interests. If you like, we can be the two poles connecting the two regions- Germany and Singapore, EU and ASEAN.
6. My third proposition is that German companies can play an invaluable role in driving the EU and Germany’s relationship with Singapore and ASEAN.
a. As companies expand their cross-border activities, they also encourage the flow of goods, people, capital, ideas and data across borders.
i. Over time, the connections built by businesses will guide all of us towards a more open and integrated world order.
ii. They will also provide a solid foundation for the Singapore-Germany bilateral relationship, and closer EU-ASEAN ties.
b. The role of German companies in our region should not be underestimated.
i. Almost 2000 German companies are based in Singapore, in areas such as engineering, logistics, and fintech.
ii. Many of these companies have used Singapore as a base to run extensive operations across multiple ASEAN markets.
iii. I hope to see German companies continue to lead the way and demonstrate by example, how Singapore can be a launchpad for EU businesses into ASEAN.
iv. The decisions you make today, and in the future on where to invest your money and your talent will send a strong signal to your Governments and possibly shape their economic policies.
c. Sustainable development is one area where Singapore and Germany can collaborate further.
i. For Singapore, environmentally sustainable and efficient energy generation holds the key to overcoming various physical limitations for us.
ii. As a country that prioritises sustainable development, Germany has developed a complex energy market with strong innovative capabilities.
iii. There are certainly many more ways in which German companies can value add to the growth of Singapore’s energy generation landscape and become our partners in shaping the Singapore Energy Story.
7. I would like to conclude my sharing today on a note of encouragement for the SGC and German companies to continue contributing strongly to the growth of the Singapore-Germany relationship, and also the EU-Singapore relationship.
8. With those three propositions, I look forward to the discussion with you. Thank you.