Speech by 2M Tan See Leng at the Opening Ceremony of the Singapore International Ferrous Week (SIFW)

Speech by 2M Tan See Leng at the Opening Ceremony of the Singapore International Ferrous Week (SIFW)

Distinguished Speakers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. Good morning. It is my great pleasure to be here with you at the opening ceremony of the Singapore International Ferrous Week (SIFW). This marks the first in-person SIFW event as many countries have progressively eased their border restrictions and re-opened global travel borders. I also want to extend a warm welcome to our overseas delegates and hope you take some time to rediscover Singapore.

Recovery from external shocks amid the COVID-19 crisis

2. Singapore’s economy did well last year. Our economy grew by 7.6% in 2021, rebounding from a 4.1% contraction in 2020. In particular, our manufacturing, information and communications and the wholesale trade sectors recorded strong growth. Singapore also secured S$11.8 billion in Fixed Asset Investment (FAI) last year. This is no mean feat especially given the challenges posed by the pandemic over the last 2 years. When realised, these projects are expected to create more than 17,000 jobs and close to S$17 billion in value-added per annum.

3. This year’s growth outlook has been clouded by several global developments. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, heightened geopolitical tensions, as well as tight border restrictions and city lockdowns in China will have far ranging impact on the global economic landscape, and have already contributed towards supply chain disruptions, and driven up the global prices of energy, food, industrial goods and commodities. These developments would undoubtedly have a major impact on open economies like Singapore.

4. As a global trading hub, Singapore is a resolute advocate of free trade, and of the need for all countries to remain open and connected to the world. Given our small size and resource constraints, we will need to be nimble and press on with our efforts in capability development and industry transformation, to help our companies adapt to these structural shifts accelerated by the pandemic, and to prepare our companies and workers to seize new growth opportunities.

5. In March this year, we launched our Trade 2030 vision. Under this vision, we aim to double our offshore trade value from US$1 trillion to US$2 trillion by 2030. We will do so by growing our trading volume, widening the types of trading activities that take place in Singapore, and strengthening regional economic integration through Free Trade Agreements, or FTAs, with other parts of the world. We will also redouble efforts to build a strong ecosystem to support trading companies and activities by attracting more traders to anchor their upstream, downstream and other innovation activities here in Singapore, and growing a strong core of what we call Singapore Global Traders, who are highly innovative and able to compete on a global scale.

6. Ferrous metal trade in particular is a significant contributor to Singapore’s international trading hub status, making up 12.8% of Singapore’s offshore trade in 2020. From 2020 to 2021, Singapore’s iron and steel trade with the world increased by 58%, from S$4.2 billion to S$6.7 billion[1] We will continue to work hard to ensure that Singapore continues to be an important trading hub for the ferrous sector.

Leverage Singapore as a hub to access key markets in Asia

7. Singapore has a large and growing trading community, with the world’s most notable traders congregating here. At present, the top three miners[2] and seven of the top 10 steelmakers[3] (by production volume) have anchored their activities in Singapore. These companies are anchored here because of Singapore’s strong fundamentals including the rule of law, a vibrant financial sector, and a highly skilled workforce. Given Singapore’s strategic location in Southeast Asia and the excellent logistics and trading infrastructure available here, companies can leverage Singapore as a key node to access key markets such as ASEAN, China and India, which are also markets expected to lead growth and recovery in a post-pandemic world. I hope companies will continue to see value in Singapore as an important node to anchor and grow your business from.

Opportunities in Singapore’s sustainability agenda

8. As economies recover post-COVID, the OECD has projected that Asia’s steelmaking capacity will expand by 18.6 million metric tonnes between 2021 and 2023[4]. Following COP-26 in Glasgow last year, there has also been a renewed push for sustainability in the steel industry, and demand for green steel will continue to rise.

9. Given that the ferrous sector is a traditionally emissions heavy industry, climate-sustainable operations are increasingly key. For example, global mining companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP and Vale, have committed up to 30% to 50% cuts in their operational emissions by 2030. Ferrous players are also working with their supply chain partners to reduce emissions, such as in shipping. I am happy to note that BHP and Rio Tinto have joined a consortium led by the Global Maritime Forum which includes key shipping companies such as Oldendorff Carriers and Star Bulk, to establish a green trade route or “corridor” which will use green ammonia, an alternative fuel manufactured by a renewable and carbon-free process, for the shipping of iron ore from Australia to East Asia.

10. It may surprise you to know that Singapore is currently home to more than 70 companies providing carbon services, the highest concentration of service providers in Southeast Asia. Through this vibrant ecosystem, we hope to continue to support industry-led initiatives such as the one I just mentioned, which will help companies achieve their climate goals and support the larger trading ecosystem as they transition to a lower carbon future.

Opportunities in Singapore’s innovation ecosystem

11. We will also continue to build a culture of innovation, to help our enterprises build their innovation translation capabilities and foster stronger relationships and partnerships between global traders and our SMEs, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and Research Institutes. Under our Research, Innovation and Enterprise, “RIE” plan, Singapore has committed to sustain investments in research, innovation and enterprise at 1% of Singapore’s GDP or S$25 billion from 2021 to 2025.

12. Collaborations between researchers and industry also serve to align research with industry demand. Last year, Sinogiant Steel group, worked with Nanyang Technological University (NTU)[5] on a research project to coat steel parts using additive technology. This transforms them into ultra-high strength products for industrial machine applications, at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional manufacturing methods.

13. Besides supporting research programmes and projects, we have been working on enhancing the ecosystem for industry players to collaborate through open calls for innovation challenges. I encourage the industry to leverage these opportunities to co-create with each other to develop new and enhanced products and solutions.


14. Singapore has proven itself to be a premier trading hub for iron and steel, resilient to external shocks such as COVID-19. The Government remains committed to supporting the sector, and helping you seize growth opportunities. It is a multi-agency and multi-stakeholder effort, and we welcome all of you to participate in this journey.

15. Let me conclude by wishing you a fruitful conference. I trust that you will find the events over the next few days to be a useful platform for you to exchange insights, network, forge partnerships, and reinforce friendships.

16. Thank you. 


[1] Statlink, Singapore Trade Statistics (from Enterprise Singapore), 2021

[2]Rio Tinto, Vale and BHP.  

[3] China Baowu (HQ: China), ArcelorMittal (HQ: Luxembourg), HBIS Group (HQ: China), Shagang Group (HQ: China) POSCO (HQ: South Korea), Jianlong Group (HQ: China), and Shandong Steel Group (HQ: China). 

[4]OECD, Latest Development in Steelmaking 2021, p. 10. 

[5] NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

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