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SMEs, low-income households will bear brunt of uncertain economic landscape, says PM Lee at APEC meeting

While it is understandable that economies have a growing desire to on-shore production, the pandemic has shown that “no economy has any hope of being entirely self-sufficient”, PM Lee said.

SMEs, low-income households will bear brunt of uncertain economic landscape, says PM Lee at APEC meeting

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attends the APEC Leaders' Informal Dialogue with Guests during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, on Nov 18, 2022. (Athit Perawongmetha/Pool Photo via AP)

SINGAPORE: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and low-income households will bear the brunt of an uncertain economic landscape, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (Nov 18).

Inflation and supply chain disruptions also threaten to pose new risks, he said at the 29th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok.

To tackle these challenges, the grouping must strive to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, he said. Among his suggestions to this end was the promotion of free and open trade flows in the region. 

This is the “raison d’etre” of the grouping, he added.

“We should work together to improve the resilience and openness of global supply chains,” he said.

While it is understandable that economies have a growing desire to on-shore production, the pandemic has shown that “no economy has any hope of being entirely self-sufficient", Mr Lee noted.

Mr Lee said Singapore will continue to steward the APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Framework Action Plan which covers eight choke points that need to be addressed to improve the performance of supply chains in the region.

He also called on the APEC economies to collectively address chokepoints and create an environment that supports supply chain efficiency, connectivity and certainty, and work with the private sector in areas such as technology access and capacity building.

GROWING THE DIGITAL ECONOMY

He added that APEC, comprising 21 economies that account for more than 60 per cent of the global GDP, should grow the digital economy to empower businesses and people.

“The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation, but international rules have lagged behind,” Mr Lee said.

The bloc can take the lead by developing digital rules and promoting cross-border digital flows, Mr Lee said, adding that the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap offers a guiding framework.

He noted that Singapore has digital economy agreements - which define rules when conducting digital trade - with APEC economies such as Australia, Chile, Korea and New Zealand.

“These will raise productivity and lower business costs by facilitating digital modes of operation,” he said. He added that the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, which currently comprises Singapore, New Zealand and Chile, will be expanded after Korea, Canada and China applied to join.

“I welcome more APEC economies to join us, or to collectively develop a new digital agreement.”

HELPING APEC SOCIETIES

Mr Lee said that APEC members must strive for balanced and inclusive growth for their people.

“This will ensure that all segments can participate in and benefit from economic growth,” he said.

He highlighted Singapore’s efforts in doing so - the country is facilitating the digital transformation journeys of its SMEs, he said.

For instance, there are avenues for researchers to be seconded to SMEs to strengthen their innovation capabilities, he said. 

“We are also doing more to equip our people with skills and knowledge for the future economy, including through upgrading programmes for workers in the tech sector,” he said.

APEC’s Aotearoa Plan of Action, which has a vision of an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, captures many of these initiatives, Mr Lee noted.

He added that Singapore will play its part, by training APEC officials under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, for instance.

Singapore has already shared its development experience with more than 150,000 foreign officials and launched the Sustainability Action Plan to support capacity building for developing economies on sustainability and climate change, Mr Lee said.

“With our collective leadership, APEC can play an important role in achieving balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth for our economies,” he said.

Source: CNA/ja(gr)
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