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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at Milken Institute's Asia Summit 2020

Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at Milken Institute's Asia Summit 2020

Mr Michael Klowden, CEO, Milken Institute,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good morning to you all.  

2. The theme of the Milken Institute’s 2020 Asia Summit – “Reconnect and Reimagine” – neatly encapsulates the twin challenges that everyone has had to deal with this year with COVID-19. 

Importance of reimagining and transforming the economy 

3. But even pre-COVID, many forces were already driving us to reimagine our future and our place in it.  

a. Geopolitical forces have threatened to bifurcate and threaten the global security and economic architecture, drawing sharper and more polarised divides.

b. Technology has enabled us to connect in new ways, but at the same, has reshaped production and supply chains.

c. Climate change and the urgency for us all to actively participate to deal with its effects.

d. The search for resilience and sustainability from environmental challenges to food supplies.   

4. As a small island state with finite resources, Singapore acutely understands the need to keep evolving to stay relevant.

a. From the birth of our nation, we have had to adapt to survive, and it is this adaptability and nimbleness, that has enabled Singapore not merely to survive, but to grow and thrive.  

5. COVID has accelerated the pace of change and made the need for change more urgent. However, it has not fundamentally dislocated us.

a. While Singapore has been fortunate to have the depth of financial resources to weather the crisis, we knew from early on that the goal was neither to wait for COVID to blow over, nor seek a return to the old normal.

b. I have said before that the crisis of a generation, also presented us with the opportunity of a generation. 

c. Our goal has been to chart a new course for ourselves, reinvent ourselves yet again to seize these new opportunities, and to distinguish ourselves from the competition, all starting now.

An open and more interconnected world economy

6. Our fundamental belief that the world must be our hinterland and market has not changed.

a. We remain as committed to free and open trade as when our country was first founded. 

b. Indeed, in this current crisis, the need for greater inter-connectedness and interdependence with each other, rather than independence from each other, has become even more pressing.  

c. We believe that it is only by working more closely together, that we can overcome the common challenges ahead together.

i. It is in this spirit that we are committed to ensuring open supply chains from early in the pandemic, and refused to impose export restrictions for our own benefit, but to the detriment of others. 

7. To this end, we will continue to work with like-minded partners to uphold and update an open and inclusive global trade architecture.  

a. Together with our partners, we will develop a new series of pathfinder digital economy agreements that will underpin and drive the next lap of global economic growth.

b. We will also continue to develop bilateral and plurilateral FTAs with our partners as the building blocks towards an inclusive multilateral global system.

c. We will not only re-establish our COVID-disrupted connectivity links with the rest of the world, but we will strengthen other dimensions of connectivity – digital, financial, regulatory, talent, and technology – so that we can position ourselves to emerge stronger from the crisis.

d. Domestically, we will help our businesses and workers to pivot to new and emerging industries and jobs. 
i. Our priority is to enable our workers to secure future jobs ahead of disruptions.

ii. We will grow a new generation of businesses to seize new opportunities in new technological areas and new markets, enabled by the digital transformation. 

1. Advanced manufacturing, bio- and med-tech, agri-tech, autonomous vehicles and new generation of green technologies will be our new focus areas.


8. Today’s event is a demonstration of our determination to defy the challenges brought about by COVID.

a. The world can safely hold meetings in Singapore, even if countries are unable to connect directly. Instead, everyone can connect in Singapore, through Singapore, and on the Singapore platform.

b. The world can see the power of combining the physical and virtual into new hybrid formats, to create new and different experiences, that are no less immersive and engaging.

9. Marina Bay Sands, the building that some of you will be at tomorrow is another testimony of our people’s determination to reimagine the future.

a. This building stands on land which we reclaimed from the sea.

b. A project started by our forefathers. They did not lament that they lacked natural resources, land, or talent.

c. Instead, we developed man-made competitive advantages through the intangibles of connectivity, industriousness, inventiveness, and trust, that has enabled us to compete with the best in the world.

10. We are determined to continue living this dream of ours to defy the odds of history, by constantly reinventing ourselves, rebuilding our nation, and reimagining the future – all before the future calls on us and passes us by.

11. Thank you all for being part of the Singapore Story, and we look forward to our continued partnership for many years to come. 

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