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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at Amazon's Southeast Asia Online Seller Summit 2021

Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at Amazon's Southeast Asia Online Seller Summit 2021

1. It is my pleasure to join you this morning at Amazon’s Southeast Asia Online Seller Summit.

The rise of e-commerce

2. We are all keenly aware of COVID-19’s impact on enterprise digitalisation and e-commerce adoption.

a. In 2020, COVID has accelerated the significant shifts in consumer behaviour and the future of retail.

b. Online sales in Singapore as a proportion of total sales value has risen since the start of 2020, from 5.8% in January to 14.3% in November1. We have seen the levels sustained post-circuit breaker, signalling a more permanent shift in consumer behaviour to online shopping.

3. The borderless world of e-commerce presents fresh opportunities that are up for grabs by all who are willing to try. Technology is neutral. Businesses that can master it faster and better, win. Competition is no longer local but regional and global. Since this is a phenomenon that we cannot stop, Singapore firms must position ourselves to make the most of it.

The way forward for Singapore

4. Businesses will not be alone in pursuing e-commerce opportunities. I will share more about our Government’s five-pronged strategy to build up Singapore’s status as a global and regional e-commerce hub.

5. First, we will further strengthen our digital infrastructure. This includes our investments in digital connectivity, data analytics, computing capabilities, payments systems, and new business models innovation. Businesses in Singapore must be able to better serve not just the local, but international markets.

a. A key initiative is the 5G infrastructure, which will form the backbone of our digital economy. There will be two nationwide 5G networks by 2025, and 50% coverage in two years. The greater speed and bandwidth of the 5G network will enable an increase in our infrastructure’s capacity to handle large e-commerce orders from all over the world

b. Concurrently, we are encouraging more firms to adopt digital solutions such as PayNow Corporate and the nationwide E-Invoicing Network. If adopted collectively, these solutions will form part of the infrastructure that will raise Singapore’s baseline e-commerce capabilities.

6. Second, a strong digital infrastructure must be complemented by robust supply chain capabilities, to ensure timely fulfilment of not just B2B but also B2C orders. It is therefore critical that our logistics sector can support our e-commerce ambitions.

a. COVID has reinforced the valuable lessons about the importance of supply chain resilience. At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, many global supply chains were disrupted due to border closures and other export restrictions. We saw spikes in concerns with assured access to key supplies, such as food and medicine.

b. Singapore distinguished ourselves by keeping our supply chains and connectivity with the rest of the world open and secured. It was a hard-won reputation we maintained since the 1970s oil crises.

c. The Singapore Government will continue working with businesses to achieve both resilience and efficiency. The two are not mutually exclusive or contradictory. Instead, they are reinforcing in our perspective, in our competition to convince global e-commerce players to plant their investments here.

d. We will position our logistics sector to value-add to global supply chains. Government agencies, including Enterprise Singapore (ESG), are working closely with our logistics players to develop specialised and value-added capabilities in areas including cold-chain management, retail and pharmaceutical logistics. This requires deep understanding of the customers’ requirements, as well as the adoption of standards and technologies to meet customers’ needs.

e. At the same time, we will partner the industry in building up a strong foundation of data infrastructure to enable secure sharing of data across supply chains. To achieve this, private sector partners involved in the Emerging Stronger Taskforce’s Alliance for Action (AfA) on Supply Chain Digitalisation suggested developing a common data infrastructure. The Government is supportive of this excellent initiative to democratise players’ access to data across the value chain, ranging from e-commerce sellers to logistics providers and financial institutions.

7. Third, our shift towards the digital economy must take place concurrently with proactive efforts to cultivate a secure and trusted digital landscape.

a. To achieve this, Singapore is ramping up our cybersecurity to protect our businesses against real threats that may manifest in our physical and cyber worlds.

b. We are also working with likeminded partners across the world to strengthen our digital connectivity and enable trusted cross-border data flows through Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs).

c. We have concluded digital economy agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Chile. We are in discussion with the UK, South Korea and others.

8. Fourth, we will double-down on efforts to support our local businesses in gaining e-commerce capabilities and maximising their growth opportunities from the digital economy.

a. We have seen encouraging signs that firms are keen to venture online through strong take-up of support schemes.

i. In 2017, Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) worked together to launch the SMEs Go Digital programme. Our intention was to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to adopt digital technology to seize growth opportunities in the digital world. As of September last year, more than 50,000 SMEs had adopted digital solutions under this programme.

ii. In 2020, ESG and IMDA also worked with platforms, including Amazon, to roll out initiatives such as the E-Commerce Booster Package. Demand has been strong – in the first six months since launch, over 2,200 applications were received.

iii. Businesses that are ready to take the next step in growing their e-commerce revenue can also tap on ESG’s and IMDA’s Grow Digital initiative, which supports enterprises in onboarding e-commerce platforms to access offshore demand and broaden their customer base.

b. To help companies access new markets, ESG has also been working with Amazon to onboard Singapore sellers to the Amazon platform as a channel for international sales, such as in the US, Canada and India.

c. Support is available for Singapore companies that are looking to expand to these new markets. These firms can tap on support from ESG’s Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) scheme for a range of market expansion-related services, such as Intellectual Property Protection services in North America under the Amazon IP Accelerator Program.

d. The Government and industry players like Amazon are also committed to supporting talent development to maximise businesses’ returns from e-commerce ventures. ESG is in active discussions with Amazon on new training programmes to equip local SMEs with the capabilities to sell overseas via Amazon. This includes listing optimisation, customer service, and international demand generation. More details will be announced later this year.

e. I encourage the companies that are interested and ready to expand internationally to approach Amazon and ESG to find out more.

9. Last but certainly not least, the Government will ensure that our policies to fight COVID will remain consistent and effective. It is critical that we keep working together to keep our infection levels down, so that our businesses can continue to operate with minimal disruptions. This then becomes a key competitive advantage for us.

a. Even though we are in a relatively stable situation at this point in time compared to many other places in the world, we can never be complacent or take things for granted.

b. We have learnt that the situation can change very quickly, if we are not careful. This would be extremely costly in terms of time, energy spent, and opportunities lost, not to mention the threat to lives.

c. We will work with Singaporeans to continue staying vigilant, so that we can resume our economic activities sustainably and start building our new economy as quickly as possible.

Conclusion

10. I am encouraged to see such a strong turnout for this Summit. This tells me that our businesses are motivated to proactively pursue new opportunities.

11. COVID-19 may have been the crisis of a generation, but it can also become the opportunity of a generation for Singapore if we make the right moves together. I encourage all businesses to embrace the opportunities that e-commerce presents. Together, we can put Singapore on the world map as a global and regional e-commerce hub.

12. I wish you a very fruitful Summit over the next two days. Thank you.

 

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