Khun Supant Mongkolsuthree,
Chairman, Federation of Thai Industries and ABAC Chair 2022,
Mr Lam Yi Young,
CEO of the Singapore Business Federation,
Members of ABAC,
1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you at the opening of the 1st APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC 1) Meeting for 2022.
a. To our overseas guests, a very warm welcome to Singapore.
2. Singapore has had the honour of hosting ABAC meetings on four other occasions. Today’s ABAC 1 meeting is especially significant as this is the first physical meeting for ABAC members in almost two years since the emergence of COVID-19.
Outlook of 2022
3. 2022 is a year of transition, as we find ways to live with COVID-19. Many economies are reopening their borders and beginning to recover from the shock of the pandemic.
a. For Singapore, this is a crucial period for our economy and enterprises to prepare for the future.
i. Our economy performed well in 2021, achieving a 7.2% growth. It is projected to grow by 3% to 5% this year, barring some downside risks.
ii. I am encouraged that Singapore enterprises continued to invest, upgrade, innovate, and even expand into regional markets, in the midst of the pandemic.
iii. Start-up activities also gained momentum, and we have seen a healthy number of successful Singapore start-ups in 2021.
b. Regionally, growth prospects remain bright.
i. APEC’s GDP saw a growth of 5.8% in 2021 and is forecasted to expand at 4.2% in 2022.
4. APEC plays a crucial role to improve the prosperity of the Asia-Pacific through deeper regional economic integration.
a. Last year, APEC Leaders agreed on the Aotearoa Plan of Action to realise the Putrajaya Vision 2040 together.
b. These achievements take us closer to our shared commitment to the eventual realisation of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.
i. We recognise the importance of FTAAP to the APEC business community, particularly at a time when the region is making efforts to spur economic recovery. FTAAP can help reshape regional trade, in line with our sustainability and inclusive agenda.
ii. We must continue to drive towards this vision through building blocks like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
iii. As Chair of the CPTPP Commission this year, Singapore will work closely with other CPTPP members on regional economic recovery as well as emerging opportunities, including cooperation on digital and green initiatives.
iv. The RCEP entered into force on 1 Jan 2022 and will continue to strengthen regional trade and investment ties among its members.
5. To further leverage these growth opportunities, public-private cooperation between businesses and governments of the Asia-Pacific region would be key in driving tangible outcomes and sustainable recovery for our people and businesses.
a. ABAC is a key platform for the business community to foster this collaboration. The private sector’s valuable insights and recommendations for economic recovery remain vital in informing APEC’s initiatives.
6. Allow me to share three suggestions on how we can work together to build resilience and strengthen the economic recovery.
Opportunities in the Digital Economy
7. First, we can explore opportunities for cooperation in digital economy.
8. The digital revolution was well underway even before COVID-19. But the pandemic has accelerated its pace and scale.
a. Global cooperation is important so that more people and businesses can participate meaningfully in the digital economy.
b. The Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) between Singapore and Australia, and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) amongst Chile, New Zealand and Singapore have provided useful reference points on the common rules and interoperable standards for digital trade.
c. The efforts have been further augmented by the recent conclusion of the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA) and the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA).
d. These agreements support digital trade within the region by enabling businesses to connect with their overseas partners and by establishing trusted access to overseas markets.
e. I encourage ABAC members to tap on these agreements to improve business to business connectivity within the region.
i. There are many areas to consider, for example, fair and secure access to data, freer cross-border data flows, enhancing participation in the digital economy, and strengthening multilateral cooperation to leverage digital technologies for sustainable development.
ii. Domestically, Singapore has worked with industry stakeholders to develop a neutral and open digital platform to facilitate trusted and secure data sharing across supply chain ecosystems. Launched as the Singapore Trade Data Exchange (SGTraDex), this data highway enables industry players across the value chain, such as logistics service providers, shippers, and banks, to achieve end-to-end supply chain visibility with common data standards.
f. Singapore will continue to contribute to the global conversation on the opportunities offered through digital transformation at APEC and other multilateral platforms.
Opportunities in the Green Economy
9. Second, economies and businesses alike should seize new growth prospects in the green economy.
10. The acceleration of global climate action has opened up opportunities in the green economy such as in green finance, renewable energy and low-carbon solutions. Businesses are also looking to integrate sustainability into their products and services, to meet consumers’ demand and to be more socially and environmentally responsible.
11. Addressing climate change is a global priority and collective responsibility. And capturing these opportunities will require collaboration at all levels – across APEC economies, and among businesses, non-government organisations, and our people. It is important that the benefits of a more sustainable future is shared, and that no one is left behind.
12. I am heartened to note that ABAC has developed the Climate Leadership Principles and Framework, which guides both the business community and APEC economies to respond to the pandemic with efforts that are compatible with climate change objectives.
13. Singapore is playing our part to push forward on our sustainability efforts. Last year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a whole-of-nation sustainability movement to advance towards a greener, low-carbon future, not just on how we work and do business but also how we live, play, and commute.
Strengthening physical connectivity and reopening borders safely
14. Third, we should continue to expand our physical connectivity and strengthen supply chain resilience.
a. Last year, APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade adopted two key statements to double down our commitment to further strengthening supply chain resilience.
b. The statements on “COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chains” and “Services to Support the Movement of Essential Goods” demonstrate APEC’s resolve to collectively respond to the disruption brought about by the pandemic and to facilitate trade.
15. We also need to reopen our borders safely for businesses to reconnect with the world.
a. Business transactions can take place virtually, but nothing can replace in-person interactions to build relationships and trust.
b. While COVID-19 remains unpredictable, we must find a way to live with the virus, especially with vaccination. This approach has allowed Singapore to continue the journey of reopening our borders in a safe and calibrated manner to facilitate international travels.
i. We have introduced Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) to facilitate vaccinated individuals to travel quarantine-free. This will help further broaden our travel network and strengthen our connectivity with the rest of the world.
c. I commend ABAC’s efforts last year on the Taskforce on Reopening Borders for Safe and Seamless Travel, chaired by ABAC Singapore representative, Mr. Lam Yi Young.
d. ABAC taskforce’s recommendations on reopening borders and safe travel have added value to the conversations at APEC, and positively contributed to the establishment of the APEC Safe Passage Taskforce under Thailand’s chairmanship.
e. Singapore supports work on this front, including discussions on simplifying health protocols and mutual recognition of health certificates.
Thailand’s Chairmanship 2022
16. Let me congratulate Thailand on assuming the Chairmanship of APEC.
a. I am heartened that Thailand has made a strong commitment to furthering APEC’s green agenda.
i. Climate change and environmental issues are increasingly shaping economic and trade policies.
ii. Sustainability must be mainstreamed into economic activities to realise our climate change commitments while seizing new green opportunities.
b. I am confident that under Thailand’s able leadership, APEC will continue to synergise our collective strength to bring about sustainable and inclusive growth for all.
17. As the voice of enterprises, ABAC has the unique capability to influence and lead many positive changes in the integration of APEC economies.
18. Your continued partnership with APEC will bring about a more resilient and integrated economy, and better lives for millions.
19. I wish all of you a productive conference. Thank you.