Ambassador Lui Tuck Yew,
Mr Lim Ming Yan, Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation,
Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. I am very pleased to join you for the Singapore-China Trade and Investment Forum (SCTIF) virtually from SBF’s office in Singapore, the satellite venue of this year’s Forum.
2. First, allow me to express my appreciation to SBF for organising the Forum, and for having me here today. The Forum has been a useful platform to foster dialogue and networking for companies from Singapore and China.
3. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, trade and investments between Singapore and China remain strong and growing. Bilateral trade for the first three quarters of 2021 grew by 20.6%, compared with the same period in the previous year. China continues to be our largest trading partner since 2013, and was our largest investment destination in 2019. This is testament to the longstanding partnership between our businesses.
4. This pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of global trade. Companies are forced to re-think their business models, and find innovative ways to engage partners and consumers. In the face of disruption, it is important for us to look for new opportunities to continue thriving and prospering.
5. As we now learn to cope with the COVID-19, let me share three key economic trends that present opportunities for Singapore companies.
Opportunities in the growth of China’s domestic market
6. The first is the continued growth of China’s domestic market.
a. China’s overall economy has bounced back quickly since the start of the pandemic, and continues to register resilient GDP growth.
b. As its economy recovers, China has committed to boosting domestic consumption and increasing spending from its vast consumer market. This will continue to be a key driver of economic growth in the next few years, in line with China’s “Dual Circulation” strategy.
c. The prolonged pandemic has also led to shifts in consumer behavior, including for those in their 20s and 30s, who are traditionally a major driver of China’s consumption growth. Young Chinese consumers are now more discerning and choosing to spend on better quality products. We can expect this trend to persist as purchasing power of the Chinese consumers continue to grow.
7. Singapore companies and products are reputed for their high quality, safety, and reliability, and are well-positioned to serve the Chinese market and cater to the Chinese consumers. Many of the Singapore exhibitors at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) such as Yeo's, Natura Biotechnologies and Pearlie White are developing and showcasing their innovative solutions and products that will lead to a higher quality of life. I urge you to find out more about them.
Opportunities in the Digital Economy
8. The second opportunity is the rapid digitalisation of the global economy.
a. China is already a global leader in this area, with a digital economy worth USD 6 trillion or 38.6% of its GDP in 2020. Technologies such as mobile platforms, big data, cloud computing, and related applications have completely transformed China’s economy.
b. The pandemic has further accelerated digitalisation around the world, including in China. Chinese consumers are now spending more time online, and on apps, such as WeChat, Douyin and Xiaohongshu. As a result, e-commerce has seen remarkable growth, accelerated by the rapid rise of video livestreaming during the pandemic. This opens up more opportunities for companies to access the Chinese market through digital channels.
c. Southeast Asia’s digital economy is projected to triple in size to US$300 billion by 2025. Within Singapore, the pandemic has also added 30% first time digital services users. These are also growing opportunities for both Singapore and Chinese companies.
9. To harness these growth opportunities, Singapore is actively investing in digital infrastructure to enhance our capabilities in the digital economy, such as in digital trade, digital identities and the Internet of Things. In this regard, I am heartened to see that SBF and Singapore exhibitors have embraced digitalisation and embarked on the Singapore Virtual Pavilion platform for this year’s CIIE, and are also experimenting with digital marketing techniques such as livestreaming and KOL marketing to increase outreach and engage potential online buyers more effectively.
10. We should build on these efforts and continue to find new opportunities in the digital economy, such as in cross-border e-commerce and trade financing.
Opportunities in the Green Economy
11. The third opportunity is in the emerging green economy.
a. Climate change is a global priority. Countries and businesses alike need to recognise its increasing significance, and learn to integrate sustainability into our plans. This is core to our long-term competitiveness.
b. Singapore and China are like-minded in our intent to address the climate crisis. We share the same goal to reduce carbon footprint and develop a more sustainable economy in the future.
c. The Chinese government has issued its “1+N” policy framework last month to promote green development and provide guidance to meet China’s 2030 carbon peak and 2060 carbon neutrality targets.
d. Likewise, Singapore launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 this year. We aim to halve our emissions from the 2030 peak by 2050, with a view to achieve net zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of the century. We are also keen to develop new green growth sectors, such as carbon services and green finance, and work with global and regional partners to conduct R&D in green technologies.
12. The green economy presents opportunities for businesses to reinvent themselves and stay relevant. Those who embrace sustainability quickly will reap first-mover advantages, such as the likes of Sembcorp, which has been providing renewable energy and integrated sustainable solutions in China for over 20 years.
13. I encourage Singapore and Chinese companies to leverage the wealth of opportunities available in the green economy, including areas such as renewable energy, low-carbon technology, and green financing.
14. In this time of both crisis and opportunity, the business community plays an important role in championing Singapore and China’s bilateral economic cooperation to achieve the next bound of economic growth.
15. Our success thus far is undergirded by the efforts of business associations such as the SBF, which helped our businesses navigate the fast-evolving environment.
a. I thank SBF for leading Singapore’s participation in the CIIE since its inception, and the 45 exhibiting companies for representing Singapore.
b. The CIIE continues to be a valuable platform for foreign companies to showcase and pitch their products, services, and technologies to the vast Chinese market. Your participation at CIIE is a testimony of our companies’ confidence and continued interest in the Chinese market.
16. I hope that everyone will have fruitful networking sessions, whether online or offline, today. I also look forward to a meaningful dialogue to explore how Singapore companies can tap on emerging opportunities in China. Thank you.