Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good evening. I would like to thank my friend, Minister Piyush Goyal, and the Confederation of Indian Industry for inviting me to address you at the Summit.
2. First, let me share some good news. I was told India has won two Oscars today. Best song, “Natu Natu”, and best short documentary, “Elephant Whisperer”. So, congratulations to India. A lot of work to be done on the third Oscar, the Oscar on Partnership.
3. Indeed, we meet in a time of great political, economic, social, and environmental stress. Our world is facing unprecedented uncertainty and economic headwinds. Many countries, even those that once took for granted that the supermarket would always be full, are now worried about food security. Geopolitical conflict fans mistrust that undermines globalisation and the international cooperation needed to tackle common threats such as climate change. How should businesses respond to these circumstances?
4. I think the CII has got the right answer in the theme for this year’s Partnership Summit – “Partnerships for Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable Businesses”. It is the right answer, not only in recognising that businesses must Accelerate to become Responsible, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable, but also right in identifying Partnership as the way to achieve these goals.
5. So, I would like to encourage all of us to think deeply about Partnership, and, especially, how it can help Indian companies to grow your business in Singapore, in Southeast Asia, and beyond.
6. But some of you may ask: India is a giant market. It has the 5th largest GDP in the world and growing rapidly. In 2021, India created 45 unicorns. Air India just bought 470 planes in the biggest order in history. India is also a leader in the digital payments space: with transactions amounted to an annualised 123 lakh crore Indian Rupees, or 1.5 trillion USD, and the Unified Payments Interface – or the famous UPI – facilitated well over 40% of these transactions.
7. Therefore, you may ask: with such impressive numbers, shouldn’t Partnership refer to foreign companies seeking partnerships with Indian companies to do business in India? True. And this is already happening in many sectors, partly encouraged by government policies and incentives, as well as drawn by the sheer size of India’s market. So, why should you grow, or accelerate the growth of, your business beyond India, to Singapore and the rest of the world?
8. Let me start by sharing with you some figures about the ASEAN Economic Community.
a. At 3.3 trillion USD, the ASEAN economy in 2021 was also the 5th largest in the world, collectively, equal to India, and the 3rd largest in Asia, behind China and Japan. And it attracted 175 billion USD worth of FDI inflows, making it the third largest FDI recipient in the world, after the US and China.
b. Out of these 175 billion USD worth of opportunities, Indian investors found only 1.9 billion dollars. As India drives towards a US$30 trillion economy by 2050, my challenge to Indian businesses is to increase your investment in ASEAN by at least ten-fold to 20 billion USD by the end of this decade.
c. In the period 2020 to 2021, ASEAN’s total trade with the world was about 3.3 trillion USD. In the same period, merchandise trade between ASEAN and India grew by just 1% to 67 billion USD, which is only about 2% of ASEAN’s total trade. So may I also invite you to take a moment to just imagine how much more your business could have grown by finding partners to seize the opportunities in ASEAN? My second challenge is therefore for India to also increase the amount of merchandise trade with ASEAN by ten-fold by the end of this decade.
9. Your efforts to grow your business in ASEAN, whether through trade in goods, services or investment will be facilitated by a comprehensive set of trade agreements that are already in place between India and ASEAN and bilaterally some individual ASEAN members. These agreements create a market of about 2 billion people, one-quarter of the world’s population, including an expanding middle class of more than 500 million people. So, yes, India is a giant market. But India plus ASEAN is even bigger – double the giant - and your Singaporean and other ASEAN business partners may also help you to grow beyond ASEAN into Australia, Japan, Korea, and even China.
10. The ties between India and Singapore are longstanding and multi-faceted. Beyond the extensive and friendly relations between our governments, there are deep and enduring friendships and kinships, shared histories, and cultures. Our people are comforted by the familiar when they visit one another, and intrigued by the novel. As we say in Singapore: we are same, same, but different. Same-same helps us to connect easily at the professional and personal levels. Different enables us to add value to our partnership by complementing each other for mutual benefit, even though India is vast and Singapore tiny.
11. Not surprisingly, there are more than 10 thousand Indian companies registered in Singapore, making India the Number 1 source of foreign companies in Singapore. We are happy that you have found us to be hospitable and a friendly place to do business. In the other direction, Singapore investors have invested almost 137 billion USD in India over the last 20 years according to the High Commission of India, accounting for nearly 23% of total FDI inflows, including 17.4 billion USD in 2021 alone. These investments speak well of India’s ongoing and successful effort to become more business and investor-friendly, while also helping Indian startups and established companies to grow and create good jobs.
12. At the government level, Piyush ji and I are both members of the India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable, a platform for Indian and Singaporean leaders to meet and discuss, openly and with one another, about the common challenges posed by global and regional developments. Equally important, the Roundtable has enabled us to identify partnership opportunities that our businesses can work together to develop and grow and hopefully one day, we will win the third Oscar.
13. Some are ongoing, such as our UPI-PayNow partnership to serve the needs of our businesses and people for instant and low-cost fund transfers between India and Singapore. I am happy that India chose to work with Singapore on its first cross-border, real-time system linkage.
14. Other areas, such as in renewable energy and supply chain resilience, are new. We can explore collaborations in these areas and more.
15. In conclusion, I would like to leave you with 2 messages: one, India is a giant market; India plus ASEAN is twice the giant; and two, India and Singapore are partners across many dimensions and there are opportunities to further deepen this partnership.
16. The CII Partnership Summit is an excellent occasion to affirm enduring relationships and form new partnerships to explore together the opportunities to not only do business with one another, but to uplift the lives of our peoples through responsible, innovative, sustainable, and equitable practices. This is perhaps the best response business could give to realise Prime Minister Modi’s vision of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam” (One Earth, One Family, One Future).
17. Thank you.