SINGAPORE: Amid the resurgence in nationalist and protectionist sentiments, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat called for renewed commitment to the rules-based multilateral international order.
Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Monday (Apr 15), Mr Heng also said global rules need updating to address the changes in the environment.
In his speech highlighting the importance of US engagement in Asia, Mr Heng said American leadership has been instrumental for global peace and prosperity since World War II.
Describing the US as a key economic and security partner for Asian countries, Mr Heng said: “Singapore’s experience bears testament to the positive impact that US engagement has had on the region.”
But he added that the ongoing trade tension between the US and China was "worrying”.
He said the US-China relationship is a key determinant of global peace and prosperity, and the most important bilateral relationship in the world.
He stressed that it was “vital” that the disputes between the two major powers be resolved in accordance with international norms and through existing multilateral frameworks.
“Rules and norms ensure predictability in inter-state relations and commerce, while multilateral processes ensure that they are built through consensus and widely respected.
"The rules-based multilateral order has brought peace and prosperity, and ensured that the world we live in is not one where might is right,” Mr Heng said.
While this has served the global community, including the United States, well, Mr Heng said the rules "need to be updated" as the environment changes.
He gave the example of the World Trade Organization and how its formation recognised that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was no longer as relevant to the realities of world trade as it had been in the 1940s.
Mr Heng also mentioned how the slow progress in the Doha round of talks did not stop countries including Singapore from pursuing economic cooperation partnerships and bilateral or regional trade deals.
“As the global economy and international order change, all countries have the responsibility to work together, to reinvigorate our rules-based international order, and ensure its continued relevance.
“This needs to be done consensually and multilaterally,” Mr Heng said.