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Closing Keynote by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the 8th ASEAN-EU Business Summit

Closing Keynote by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the 8th ASEAN-EU Business Summit

Excellencies, 
Mr Donald Kanak, Chairman of the EU-ASEAN Business Council,
Mr Federico Donato, President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Singapore,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

1. Pleasure to join you this evening at the 8th ASEAN-EU Business Summit. 

2. Covid-19 has had a profound impact on all of us.
a. It has reshaped how we live and work, as evidenced by today’s hybrid event.
b. With recurring waves of infection erupting in many parts of the world, the outlook remains uncertain, 
i. And the true extent of its human, economic, and social costs remain to be seen.

3. In the depths of the crisis, ASEAN came together to commit to refrain from imposing export restrictions, 
a. And to facilitate the smooth flow and transit of essential goods in the region. 
b. This certainty minimised the impact of disrupted supply chains on businesses in the region.

4. Nevertheless, the pandemic has had a severe impact on the region’s economy.
a. After expanding at an average rate of 5.3% over the last decade, 
i. The Asian Development Bank recently projected the Southeast Asian Economy to contract by 3.8% in 2020. 
b. This would be the first decline in economic growth in 22 years, since the Asian Financial Crisis.

5. Looking ahead, it is clear we are not returning to, nor should we expect the business-as-usual of a pre-Covid world. 
a. How then can we prepare our economies for the future?
b. I believe the key will be to press on with our regional and global integration efforts.

ASEAN must press on with integration to remain an attractive proposition to international businesses and investors

6. Closer economic integration has been a longstanding priority for ASEAN. Over the years these efforts have benefited both consumers and businesses operating in the region. 
a. Today, intra-regional trade in goods is largely tariff-free, but we need to do more to counter non-tariff measures.
b. Services regulations have been made more business friendly,
c. Investment rules are more pro-business and cover foreign-owned investments, 
d. While the regulatory environment is increasingly better harmonised and streamlined.

7. There is much more we need to do, and ASEAN must press on with our integration efforts.  
a. Not only to overcome the fallout from the crisis,
i. But to bounce back emerge stronger.
b. Greater integration will present businesses and investors with a more attractive proposition even as global production and supply chains shift,  
i. Placing the region at the forefront of the global economic recovery. 

8. ASEAN’s signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (‘RCEP’) Agreement with our partners last Sunday is one such step forward. 
a. Comprising about 30% of global Gross Domestic Product (‘GDP’) and close to a third of the world’s population, RCEP is the world’s largest FTA to date, 
i. It is also probably one of the most complex FTAs, as it comprises a diverse group of countries at different stages of development. 
ii. This exemplifies the determination of these countries to transcend their respective stages of development and leverage on each other’s comparative advantages to build a multilateral rules-based system for the benefit of our people and businesses.
 
9. Beyond its economic value, it is a statement of our strategic intent to have a shared interest in each other’s prosperity and success. This also contributes to our regional security.

It is in the interest of the EU and European businesses to stay engaged in the region

10. Seizing a strong recovery requires coordinated actions not only within the region but with partners including the EU. 

11. Notwithstanding the internal challenges within EU and ASEAN, both must share a geostrategic interest to look beyond the domestic and internal, 
a. To focus on building global networks, uphold multilateralism and update the global security and trade architecture with likeminded partners.

12. While the US and China have their internal and bilateral issues to resolve, they comprise ¼ of global GDP.
a. The rest of the world, the other ¾, including EU and ASEAN must also play our part to uphold and update the global security and economic architecture. 
b. Global leadership cannot be the sole responsibility or burden of only the two largest economies.  

13. All of us have a part to play to uphold the standards of behaviour, to contribute constructively and to help alleviate the burdens on the few.
a. When we work together, we are able to overcome common challenges more effectively.
i. It is not a zero-sum game.

14. I am encouraged to see the EU deepening its engagement of the region over the years, including the recent bilateral FTAs with Singapore and Viet Nam. 
a. Europe has a stake in the continued success and growth of ASEAN, which is expected to be the third-largest economy globally by 2030.

15. The EU consistently features amongst ASEAN’s top three largest trading partners, and largest source of Foreign Direct Investments. 
a. We are also home to many European businesses, with over 10,000 of them in Singapore alone.
b. In this Council’s 2020 Business Sentiment Survey, many European businesses continue to see ASEAN as the region with the best economic opportunity,
c. They are keen to see the EU accelerate FTA negotiations with ASEAN, 
i. With 81% preferring to improve connectivity through a region-to-region FTA.
d. We look forward to continue work with the EU in this area, which would be a concrete expression of commitment between the two regions to closer integrate our economies.

There are many areas for greater collaboration between Singapore and the EU

16. Besides an FTA, there are many areas with potential for deeper collaboration with the EU, and with the business community. 
a. Allow me to briefly highlight some of the opportunities
i. In Healthcare, 
ii. Digitalisation, and 
iii. Sustainable development.

Healthcare

17. The Covid pandemic has shown the world that the importance of good healthcare to economic prosperity cannot be overstated.
a. Managing the pandemic is essential for a robust recovery. 
b. Given the easily transmissible nature of the virus, and the global interconnectedness, 
i. It is not sufficient to have controlled the situation within our own borders.
c. We must work together to improve outcomes equitably around the world. We are only safe when everyone is safe.

18. Singapore and the European Commission have committed to participating in the World Health Organisation’s COVAX initiative. 
a. This will help to fund the development and procurement of vaccines for all participating economies,
b. And is a recognition that cooperation, not nationalism, is in every country’s best interests for building a more cohesive environment towards global recovery.

19. Enhancing our healthcare systems will not only improve the quality of life for citizens,  
a. But also increase the resilience of the economy in the longer term, while creating new economic opportunities for businesses. 

20. The health tech and biomedical sectors are key industries that Singapore has prioritised and supported over the years.
a. Europe too possesses world-class healthcare expertise, with close ties between our businesses and research institutions.
b. For example, earlier this year, I witnessed AstraZeneca’s signing of strategic partnerships with leading Singapore healthcare innovators.
i. By bringing together their expertise, they can leverage technology to drive better healthcare outcomes in Singapore and the region.
c. We will continue to emphasise the development of the sector, and I look forward to further collaborations with our European counterparts in future.


Digitalisation

21. Secondly, the EU and ASEAN can be connected by digital platforms and standards, rather than be divided by geographical distances.

22. The digital economy in ASEAN is a fast-developing market, which some studies estimate would be worth more than USD 300 billion by 2025.

23. As an enabler, Digitalisation is critical in harnessing the potential of the region, and for ASEAN to participate more effectively in the global economy. 
a. For example, in our efforts to streamline trade, all members have joined the ASEAN Single Window, 
i. which helps expedite cargo clearance through the electronic exchange of trade-related documents. 
b. We are also exploring possibilities to enhance the platform, 
i. Such as exchanging more documents, 
ii. And expanding the platform to our international partners as well.

24. To guide our collective efforts in this area, we developed the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework during Singapore’s 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship. 
a. Together with its subsequent Action Plan, it provides a blueprint to chart ASEAN’s journey towards a single regional digital economy.

25. In parallel, Singapore is working on a series of Digital Economy Agreements (‘DEAs’) with partners beyond the region.
a. These 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. 

26. A DEA with the EU will be a key step towards connecting the EU and ASEAN digitally. 
a. Such an agreement would help to foster innovation and investments in new digital industries.
b. With Singapore as a base, it would also unlock more opportunities in ASEAN’s digital economy for the businesses in Europe. 

Sustainable Development

27. Thirdly, ASEAN will also step up efforts to emphasise sustainable development, to reduce our environmental impact while improving the quality of life for citizens.
a. This is especially pertinent given the rapid urbanisation in the region, 
i. While the growing middle class may bring about higher levels of consumption and waste, 
ii. Both of which increase the importance of sustainability as in issue for the region.

28. To address the opportunities and challenges presented by these trends, we launched the ASEAN Smart Cities Network initiative in 2018. 
a. It is a collaborative platform for ASEAN cities to work together in using technology to achieve smart and sustainable urban development,
i. And currently comprises 26 pilot Smart City Action Plans. 
b. Participation from ASEAN Dialogue Partners is important to strengthen the initiative through sharing of experiences and expertise.  
c. The EU has considerable experience in this area, and we welcome the cooperation on the ASEAN-EU Smart Green ASEAN Cities Initiative, 
i. Which will facilitate an increased exchange of proven environmentally-sound city management practices. 

29. Increased investment and adoption of renewable energy is another key thrust for the region’s sustainable development, as economic growth leads to rising energy demand.
a. We target for renewable energy to have a 23% share in the ASEAN energy mix by 2025, 
i. And will seize the opportunity to invest in the appropriate long-term infrastructure to harness the region’s renewable resources, to be shared across different countries.

30. We have good existing cooperation with the EU on sustainable development. 
a. For instance, the EU-Singapore FTA (EUSFTA) provides platforms for Singapore and EU to further our collaboration in sustainable development, such as climate change and energy consumption. 
i. Within the first year of the EUSFTA’s entry into force, EU and Singapore officials have begun conversations to exchange ideas and experiences on this front.
b. In addition, both the EU and Singapore have committed to open and investor-friendly regimes for renewable energy investments. 

31. We welcome greater cooperation with the EU in the area of sustainable development with both Singapore and the wider ASEAN region. 
a. This would enable us to work towards both a strong and sustainable recovery. 

Conclusion

32. ASEAN and the EU must press on to strengthen integration and engagement, and build towards win-win outcomes. 
a. This is not the preserve of Governments alone, and I call upon the business community to lend your voice and efforts to bring about greater integration.
i. You are our like-minded partners.

33. This cooperation and trust is especially precious in the face of global uncertainties and tensions. 
a. So let all us work together to deepen this partnership.
b. That is how we can emerge stronger, together.
c. That is how we can build towards a more inclusive and resilient recovery.

34. Thank you. 
a. I look forward to hearing your views in the dialogue as well. 

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