SINGAPORE: US businesses have a responsibility in shaping Washington's trade policies, said Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Aug 14) at an event organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).
Speaking to about 250 members of the American and international business community, Mr Chan said: “You have tremendous responsibility because you are the movers and shakers of businesses in Southeast Asia, if not in the Asia-Pacific region.
“You have tremendous responsibility because you are the movers and shakers of businesses in Southeast Asia, if not in the Asia-Pacific region."
His comments come amid an ongoing trade row between the United States and China. While there are differences between the two, Mr Chan said there are greater interdependencies.
“Today we are not in the era of the Cold War; we should not have this zero-sum mentality of us versus them,” he said.
If the US and China are not able to agree to terms bilaterally, then at least they should do so multilaterally, the minister added.
“Often it is difficult to work out bilateral agreements - sometimes multilateral agreements are useful because it helps to balance out the pluses and minuses on a wider platform,” said Mr Chan.
In response to a question on how the trade conflict, if prolonged, might impact Singapore, Mr Chan said Singapore will continue to work with like-minded parties for a rules-based system.
He added that Singapore will continue to seek out new partners for multilateral and bilateral agreements to allow companies to diversify.
In addition, Singapore will work to upgrade its capabilities to compete on speed of innovation and quality of ideas, said Mr Chan.
The minister noted that US investment in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region is huge, and said he expects its interest in the region to continue.
US-ASEAN bilateral trade amounted to US$234 billion (S$321.6 billion) in 2016, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.
When asked about what Singapore’s Government thought about the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy, Mr Chan said that it made perfect sense as the US is present in Northeast Asia and Southwest Asia.
“If you look at the global geopolitical chessboard, the way to connect Northeast Asia and Southwest Asia is Southeast Asia. That’s the lynchpin, it has been so for a long time,” said Mr Chan.
“So Southeast Asia will continue to be of critical importance to the US in the past and in the coming decades, and it will continue to be important.”