H.E. Anna Hallberg, Swedish Minister for Foreign Trade and Nordic Affairs,
H.E. Niclas Kvanstrom, Swedish Ambassador to Singapore,
Mr Jan Larsson, CEO of Business Sweden,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon to all of you. I am pleased to speak today at the Sweden-Southeast Asia Business Reset Summit.
a. I am very happy to see that the Summit in Singapore is resuming this year, after being postponed last year due to the COVID-19 situation.
Overcoming COVID-19 together
2. The past year has been a tumultuous year for everyone.
a. One of the key challenges has been striking the right balance between saving lives and keeping the economy going and we have to continue to calibrate and recalibrate this balance as the pandemic evolves.
3. In recent weeks, we hit a major bump on our path to recovery in Singapore.
a. Singapore has done relatively well in keeping the total number of community cases daily to a very low number and on some days zero for a long period of time. But recently, we have seen several clusters emerging daily and also new variants of the virus.
i. This is a timely reminder that the war against the pandemic is not yet over. But we are in a much better position today than a year ago.
b. We have a lot more tools in our hands. We have expanded our testing capability and capacity. We are testing close to forty to fifty thousand people daily. We have also developed our capability in contact tracing to allow us to detect cases as early as possible in order to ringfence them. We have also rolled out our vaccination programme and are accelerating the process to offer protection to more people.
c. In Singapore, we have also tightened our COVID-19 measures to slow the spread of the virus in the community and this is why we continue to have to keep our masks on throughout this Summit.
4. The developments we have seen over the last few weeks reminds us that we are not out of danger yet. As the virus mutates, we must also collaborate globally to battle the pandemic and adapt our response in order to have the best chance of success against the pandemic.
a. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our businesses in Singapore for their support and understanding for these stricter measures that we have introduced.
b. I am also heartened to see that many businesses are not standing still during this period. Many are even seizing new growth opportunities that have emerged, and working together to emerge stronger from this pandemic.
c. Even as we continue the battle on the health front, we will do our best to provide companies with a stable and secure environment so that they can do business in a safe and sustainable manner.
d. We will also work closely with you to support you in your growth and transformation journeys.
5. I want to express my thanks to the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and the Swedish business community for supporting the local business community during this challenging period.
a. The Sweden-Singapore Initiative (SESG) is a clear example of how Swedish and Singapore companies have come together to help one another respond to COVID-19 through innovative collaborations.
b. Under the initiative, 12 well-known Swedish MNCs including Electrolux, Anticimex and H&M partnered with Singapore heartland enterprises and hawkers on joint digital advertisement efforts.
i. This facilitated unconventional partnerships, such as between pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and local fashion boutique Aaria Creations, as well as between appliance manufacturer Electrolux and local hawker, Mad Bros SG.
ii. The campaign translated to increased exposure, footfall and sales for our local partners.
c. I want to encourage such collaborations under the SESG initiative to continue.
6. In today’s speech, I would like to share two areas where we can capitalise on the strong Sweden-Singapore collaborations to forge stronger, deeper partnerships:
a. First, supporting economic recovery through digitalisation and taking advantage of the growing digital economy.
b. And second, seeking new areas of cooperation on sustainability and the green economy.
7. Emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, we need to double down on digitalisation and digital trade. These present significant opportunities for investment and development, and provide the tools needed to adapt to new ways of working post-COVID.
8. Singapore is keen to continue supporting the growth of local SMEs and enterprises in their economic recovery through digitalisation.
a. We are supporting our local businesses in gaining e-commerce capabilities and maximising their growth opportunities from the digital economy.
i. In order for businesses to grow and stay competitive, we need to help them access new geographical markets.
ii. In June last year, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched the Grow Digital initiative to help SMEs seize business opportunities in overseas markets via digital platforms.
iii. This helped support enterprises in onboarding e-commerce platforms so that they can access offshore demand and broaden their customer base without having to invest in a physical presence overseas.
iv. To date, more than 1,800 enterprises are transacting on e-commerce platforms supported under this initiative.
b. Singapore is also exploring opportunities to partner top industry 4.0 solutions providers in enabling the roll-out of key technologies in Singapore, such as 5G and Industrial Internet of Things.
i. For instance, Ericsson recently launched the “5G Industry Partnership” Initiative with eight companies to accelerate the adoption of 5G in areas such as manufacturing, logistics, and smart cities.
ii. The eight companies will be able to test 5G-enabled solutions in Ericsson’s labs in Singapore.
9. To harness opportunities in the digital economy, Singapore has also embarked on initiatives to build digital bridges between countries and regions.
a. These range from practical collaborations to high standard Digital Economy Agreements that establish forward-looking trade rules.
b. Given the opportunities available, it is timely for Singapore and Sweden to deepen our partnership in the digital economy.
c. In this regard, Singapore has proposed the idea of a DEA with the EU.
i. The EU-Singapore FTA served as a pathfinder for the EU’s trade and investments in the region. We hope that a DEA could likewise set the stage for the EU’s future engagement with Southeast Asia in the digital space.
ii. A DEA can align standards for digital vaccine certificates to facilitate cross border travel. It can also enable mutual recognition of digital identity regimes and allow businesses to easily verify cross border consumers.
10. Another potential area of collaboration is sustainability and the green economy.
11. Earlier this year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan.
a. That sets out a Whole-of-Nation movement to advance Singapore’s agenda on sustainable development, with ambitious and concrete targets over the next 10 years.
b. A key pillar is the green economy – by embracing a sustainability mindset, going green also allows us to help our businesses and workers seize new growth opportunities.
12. We are keen to work closely with Sweden and Swedish businesses on this front.
a. For instance, we are interested to partner Swedish companies to help them grow their sustainability-related businesses and nurture promising sustainability-related industries in Singapore.
i. We see an opportunity for Swedish companies to capture growing demand for Industrial Energy Efficiency solutions in Singapore and ASEAN.
ii. We also hope to encourage B2B knowledge sharing between Singaporean and Swedish solar and Energy Storage Systems companies. This will help facilitate research collaborations between Swedish solar and energy management companies and Singapore research institutes.
iii. Swedish companies can also use Singapore as a launchpad to trial and commercialise green technology solutions for the region.
b. Under the recently-launched Enterprise Sustainability Programme, ESG is looking to help Singapore SMEs embrace sustainability practices and develop capabilities to offer sustainable solutions to the region.
i. We hope that we can learn from the experiences, best practices and capabilities of Swedish businesses, which are renowned for their thought leadership in both innovation and sustainable development.
c. ESG is also exploring avenues for collaboration with foreign partners, including Swedish corporates and start-ups, to facilitate co-innovation and tech-sourcing for Singapore SMEs.
i. ESG is in discussion with SwedCham to onboard several Swedish MNCs to participate in the upcoming Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge 2021. These MNCs will help to assess and deploy innovative sustainable solutions.
13. Despite the disruptions brought about by COVID-19, there are significant opportunities for deeper collaboration and continued partnership between Singapore and Sweden.
a. Not just in the traditional space of investment and trade, but also in emerging areas like the digital and green economy.
14. We look forward to strengthening the strong partnership shared by Singapore and Sweden – between governments, businesses and people – and finding new opportunities for growth.
15. I wish you an enriching and fruitful day of discussions and hope that you are able to take advantage of this Summit to meet potential partners for exciting future collaborations.
16. Thank you.