Her Excellency Kara Owen,
British High Commissioner to Singapore,
President of the British Chamber of Commerce,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 A very good evening.
2 Thank you for inviting me to the 21st Annual Business Awards, an occasion where we celebrate excellence in Singapore and UK businesses.
a. My sincere congratulations to all our finalists for their immense efforts.
b. And my commendations to BritCham for pressing ahead with the organisation of the Awards and taking it virtual.
3 Achieving excellence this year has been especially challenging for businesses, with the wide-ranging impact from the pandemic.
a. You have had to be resilient and adaptable,
i. To manage disrupted supply chains,
ii. Learn new ways of working and engaging your teams,
iii. And find new opportunities for your business to survive and thrive.
4 As a nation, we too have had to make many tough decisions in order to safeguard public health over the course of this year.
a. I would like to express my sincere appreciation for your patience and understanding throughout this period.
5 We have made good progress in keeping community transmissions low, and have reopened most parts of our economy.
a. Many more workers are now able to return to their workplaces,
b. And we are piloting the measures required for larger physical events, starting with the Singapore International Energy Week taking place this week.
6 Given Singapore’s position as a regional hub, we understand the importance of connectivity and travel for our businesses.
7 The reopening of borders is a priority for us, and we are actively exploring various ways to do so safely.
a. For example, we have allowed travel from countries like Brunei, New Zealand, Vietnam, and now Australia and China where the virus situation is under control
i. And we are working with Hong Kong on an air travel bubble.
8 Particularly for business travel, we have put in place Reciprocal Green Lanes which allow essential travel to be conducted safely.
a. We have also launched green lane arrangements with Brunei, selected regions in China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and now Indonesia.
i. We are also working on green lanes with our European partners, such as Germany.
b. We are also piloting a Business Travel Pass, which we hope to progressively expand to more companies.
c. Considering the promising advancements in testing technology,
d. I am confident we will be able to allow more travel, more conveniently with the appropriate safeguards over time.
9 I am certain that we have all had many more video calls this year, in both our professional and personal capacities.
a. It has helped us to cope despite local and national restrictions,
b. And also reminded us of the importance of staying connected, even when we are apart.
10 Connectivity and openness are values core to Singapore’s continued existence.
a. We cannot, and will not isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.
b. Throughout this crisis, we have been steadfast in these principles,
i. Keeping our supply lines open to the world,
ii. And ensuring that companies here are able to fulfil their obligations to international clients.
c. Working together with like-minded partners, we have expressed unwavering support for the multilateral trading system and regional integration.
d. I firmly believe that greater interdependence and integration, not fragmentation, is what is needed for a strong global recovery.
11 I also want to assure all of you that we will continue to value and welcome global companies and talent in Singapore, as we have always done.
a. While we will at times make adjustments to our manpower policies in accordance with the economic and employment situation, we remain confident of our overall value proposition to global businesses.
b. We recognise the role we play as a critical node in the global system and will continue to build on the competitive advantages that have brought many of you to Singapore.
12 We want to continue to attract the best ideas and talents to be a part of Team Singapore.
a. And ask that companies continue to employ a diverse workforce on meritocratic principles.
b. With a diverse workforce and skillsets, we will be better able to serve regional and global markets,
c. And better equipped to seize future opportunities together.
13 Other than historical ties, Singapore and the UK have longstanding and robust economic ties.
a. In ASEAN, Singapore is the UK’s top trading partner and investment destination.
b. Singapore accounts for almost a third of total UK-ASEAN trade in goods, and more than half of UK-ASEAN trade in services,
c. There are over 5,000 British businesses in Singapore, with many using Singapore as a base and launchpad to tap on the growth potential of Southeast Asia.
d. I am heartened to note BritCham’s recent survey findings that Singapore remains the business location of choice for many British businesses, with the vast majority planning to sustain, or even grow their operations here.
14 We value the continued confidence and trust of British businesses in Singapore as a business hub.
15 To position ourselves for a strong global recovery, there is much we can do together, particularly in new growth areas.
a. For example, earlier this year AstraZeneca entered strategic partnerships with leading Singapore healthcare innovators,
i. Using technology to drive better health outcomes, and create new economic opportunities.
b. In the second joint call for R&D projects between the EUREKA network and Singapore earlier this month,
i. Almost half the submissions were by Singapore-UK partnerships, the highest pairing amongst all proposals.
c. These reflect the strong mutual interest on the part of Singapore and UK companies to collaborate on projects together.
16 With the end of the Brexit transition period this year, we also look forward to a clear path forward in bilateral economic and trade ties.
a. This will provide much-needed certainty to businesses in both Singapore and the UK.
b. Not just to ensure trade and investment continuity, but also to seize opportunities for growth in the future.
17 At this event two years ago, I spoke about how we must evolve and deliver a new global standard for trade, beyond conventional goods and services.
a. Since then, Singapore has embarked on a series of Digital Economy Agreements (‘DEAs’) with partners like Australia and New Zealand. We have also launched negotiations with South Korea.
b. The DEAs build on our network of FTAs, and aim to establish high-standard rules for issues related to digital trade.
i. This includes supporting seamless cross-border data flows,
ii. The safeguarding of personal data,
iii. And addressing emerging issues such as Artificial Intelligence and Electronic Payments.
18 We are interested to pursue further DEAs with like-minded economies, including the UK.
a. These DEAs help to foster innovation, and grow trade and investments in new digital industries such as Fintech.
b. It also enables companies to use Singapore as a base to access the large and fast-growing Southeast Asian digital economy, which is expected to grow to US$300 billion by 2025.
19 Upholding an open and rules-based economic ecosystem is not the preserve of Governments alone.
20 Businesses have both a role and responsibility in determining whether the world takes the path of integration or fragmentation.
21 Let us all deepen this enduring partnership in the face of global uncertainties.
a. That is how we can emerge stronger, together.
b. That is how we can grow the global economic pie for the benefit of our people and prepare for a robust and resilient recovery.
22 Thank you and have a good evening.