Ms. Laura Valdivieso Jiménez, Vice Minister of Trade for Colombia,
Ambassadors of the Pacific Alliance to Singapore,
· Mr. Ignacio Concha, Ambassador of Chile,
· Mr. Manuel Solano, Ambassador of Colombia,
· Mr. Agustin Garcia-Lopez, Ambassador of Mexico,
· Mr. Carlos Vasquez, Ambassador of Peru
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning.
2. It is my pleasure to address you at the opening of the inaugural seminar for the Pacific Alliance – Singapore Seminar Series.
3. This seminar was first conceived over a lunch meeting I had with the four Pacific Alliance Ambassadors in Singapore in April this year.
4. We discussed how such an event would be a meaningful initiative in our shared efforts to enhance awareness and links among our countries.
5. I am glad to see the idea come to fruition today.
6. I am heartened at the good attendance of this seminar.
7. It shows wide-ranging interest and reinforces our desire to be more connected.
Celebrating the Pacific Alliance (PA)’s 10th Anniversary
8. I would like to begin by congratulating the Pacific Alliance on your 10th anniversary this year.
9. At a time when protectionist and anti-globalisation sentiments are challenging the global economy, the Pacific Alliance remains a champion for free and open trade.
10. As a progressive group, the Pacific Alliance has made remarkable achievements over the last decade.
11. These include:
a. Eliminating 92% of all tariffs among the four member states, and continuing to liberalise your services and investment markets;
b. Facilitating the flow of people and talent across borders, by removing short-term and business visa requirements; and
c. Establishing an integrated stock exchange, known as the Mercado Integrado Latinoamericano (MILA), which has become one of the largest stock exchanges in Latin America.
12. Today, the Pacific Alliance has a combined GDP of US$ 2.1 trillion.
13. This is akin to other regional trade groupings.
14. The GDP for the ASEAN grouping, for instance, stands at approximately US$ 2.8 trillion.
15. The Pacific Alliance is the world’s 8th largest economy, accounting for 52% of Latin America and the Caribbean’s total trade, and attracting 45% of investments that flows into the region.
Growing Ties Rooted in Shared History
16. Singapore is happy to be working with the Pacific Alliance to deepen trade and economic links between our countries, and as nodes in our respective regions.
17. We are the connecting tissue between two dynamic regions.
18. Most people think of Latin America and Asia as two regions separated by vast physical distance, with language, cultural, and historical differences.
19. However, we are more connected than we imagine.
20. Trade and commerce links between Latin America and Asia were established as early as the 16th century.
21. Early European explorations of the Pacific, and most notably of the Magellan Route, initiated connections between the South American continent and Asia.
22. The Manila Galleon was the first shipping service between the Philippines and Mexico, and this catalysed more frequent interactions between the two regions.
23. The galleons that sailed between our two regions served as vessels of trade, and channels that facilitated the exchange of ideas, cultures, and peoples.
24. This period is commonly referred to as one of the earliest examples of globalisation.
25. It is thus fitting that today’s seminar is titled ‘Pacific Alliance and Singapore: Partners in Globalisation’.
26. It encapsulates both sides’ desires to refresh these links and grow our partnership.
27. Over the years, our business links have strengthened.
28. Companies are increasingly aware of the opportunities in both regions.
a. Growth in total trade flows between the Pacific Alliance and ASEAN bear testament to this, reaching US$ 42.7 billion in 2019.
· This is almost double from 10 years ago.
b. Between Singapore and the Pacific Alliance, our bilateral trade has grown by almost 50% since 2010.
c. Singapore companies such as Sea Group and PSA have invested in various markets in the Pacific Alliance, in a diverse range of sectors.
· Other companies such as Tee Yih Jia Food Manufacturing and Grupo Kaybee have also exported their products to Latin America using the Pacific Alliance as a base.
· I am confident that more will follow.
· We will do our part to encourage this.
d. Likewise, we welcome more companies from the Pacific Alliance to follow the footsteps of companies such as Concha Y Toro (con-cha yee toro) and Latin Leap, to use Singapore as a launchpad to uncover business opportunities in Southeast Asia and beyond.
29. There is so much potential for us to increase our trade and investment between both our regions.
30. Singapore sees the potential for growth in the digital technology and agri-trade sectors, which would strengthen our supply chain resilience, as we enrich new markets with our goods and services.
31. This would not only benefit our companies, but more importantly, bring to fruition the benefits of globalisation.
32. These include building resilient supply chains, creating more opportunities for our people, supporting good jobs, and improving the quality of lives in both our regions.
33. Galleons of the past braved treacherous seas to cross the Pacific, and did not allow waves and challenging tides to stop their pursuit of better economic prospects.
34. Similarly, we hope that companies in both our regions will rise against any tide, with the same spirit of adventure, and take on exciting and meaningful opportunities that our respective regions have to offer.
PASFTA: A Testimony of Our Commitment to Open Trade and Globalisation
35. The global economy is now at a crossroads.
36. Notwithstanding the pressures from protectionism and uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore and the Pacific Alliance have chosen to persevere with greater economic integration, instead of going down the path of protectionism.
37. At the Pacific Alliance Summit in December last year, our Leaders announced the substantial conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement between the Pacific Alliance and Singapore.
38. Further to this, I am pleased to share that our Chief Negotiators are preparing the agreement for signature by the end of this year.
39. I would like to commend the hard work of our negotiators who have persevered through four years, and the COVID-19 crisis to complete the FTA.
40. They have every reason to be proud of the fruits of their labour.
41. This FTA gives businesses the assurance that their investments will be supported by a robust trade architecture.
42. It is also our first FTA with Colombia.
43. This agreement enables businesses to access opportunities in our respective markets, and foster greater cooperation in areas such as e-commerce, customs and trade facilitation, and maritime services.
44. These would help to expedite business flows between our two regions.
45. Most importantly, the FTA sends a powerful message to the global community that our countries remain open for business, and despite the pressures placed on economic multilateralism, we want to reach out to one another and create more opportunities for our people.
46. Once the FTA is signed, Singapore, I am very proud to say, will be the first Associate State of the PA.
47. This is an honour.
48. We are excited to be part of this platform that will catalyse closer people-to-people ties, and further economic cooperation between us.
49. There is opportunity to do so in areas of mutual interest, such as infrastructure, digital and innovation, energy, and food trade.
50. I look forward to our next chapter of collaboration.
51. I am sure all of us here can agree that Singapore and the Pacific Alliance have come a long way in deepening our partnership.
52. We want to build on this foundation, grow our links even more, and generate opportunities for our people and businesses.
53. I would like to thank the Ambassadors of the Pacific Alliance countries in Singapore, who have worked so well with us to grow our relationship.
54. I am certain that the alliance between our countries will remain strong for a long time to come.
55. Muchas gracias, our partner in globalisation.
56. I wish everyone a fruitful session ahead. Thank you.