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“Free flow of talents and ideas”, beyond mere “trade numbers”, makes America great: Chan Chun Sing

A mere “set of trade numbers” is not what “makes America great”, but rather the spirit of “innovation” at the heart of the world superpower’s economy, said Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

Speaking at a lunch dialogue organised by the US-ASEAN Business Council in Washington DC on Wed (20 Mar), Mr Chan said that the United States’ innovation is “fuelled by the free flow of talent and ideas, fuelled by the energy, the spirit of the American enterprise”.

Channel NewsAsia also reported Mr Chan as saying: “The American leadership in the world is determined by the role they play in the international institutions, to create the rules for the international community to have a predictable, lawful environment to do business.

“These are the things that really define how great America will be,” he added.

Mr Chan also emphasised the importance of setting the right foundation in terms of education, research and development, beyond creating conducive regulatory conditions in order for enterprise to flourish, whether in Singapore or in the US.

“It is beyond any single set of numbers, it is a multi-pronged strategy to get our people and businesses ready for tomorrow and that is the greatest strength that America’s leadership can provide for the world,” he said.

US should “stay engaged” in South-east Asia as “critical part of their wider geopolitical picture”: Chan Chun Sing

At the end of his visit to Washington DC on Thu (21 Mar), Mr Chan was quoted as saying that in spite of the escalating trade wars between the US and China, Singapore will remain steadfast in its position to “be guided by principles and economic considerations, not geopolitical concerns”.

The Straits Times quoted Mr Chan as saying, however, that “South-east Asia is a critical part” of the US’s “wider geopolitical, geostrategic picture, and that “it is in their interest to continue to stay engaged with it, not just economically but geopolitically”.

The area of infrastructure building has become an area of fierce competition between the two global economic giants as both the US and China have been offering multiple deals to South-east Asian countries, “from China’s billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to a trilateral partnership between the US, Australia and Japan”, as observed by ST.

Singapore, during Mr Chan’s visit, has signed one of such deals with the US, and Mr Chan assured that Singapore is capable of sharing “financial and legal expertise” not just for the US-led deal, but for the China-led initiative.

“Both the US and Chinese see us as a trusted partner. We value all the projects on economic grounds, we look at the commercial viability of each and every project seriously, without any non-economic considerations,” ST quoted him as saying.

However, said Mr Chan, “I won’t rule out that there will be occasions they’ll be able to complement each other as well.”

Outcome of RCEP will largely depend “clearer sight” of “political will” among parties privy to the Partnership, following elections in four Member countries

When asked about the reasons the delay of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) despite having marked significant progress last year, Mr Chan indicated that like any other trade deal, RCEP will still be subject to “objective factors”, and “will also depend on the political will of all the countries involved”.

The political will, he added, will be “clearer” after the elections in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia, all four of which are also member countries of the RCEP, according to CNA.

However, Mr Chan remains optimistic about the outcome of the trade deal, and believes that the RCEP will conclude this year, stating that “the gaps are narrowing”.

Changes in “global supply chains” inevitable regardless of outcomes of US-China negotiations, will potentially affect Singapore’s economy “directly and indirectly”

Mr Chan, as a part of a US delegation in a trade deal with China, will head to Beijing this week “for a fresh round of trade talks” alongside US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

ST quoted Mr Chan as saying last week that while “The rest of the world is watching closely to see how” both China and the US are able to “resolve their differences and at the same time uphold the global trading system”, the crucial thing to note in the negotiations is “how the US plays a role in global institutions to set and enforce rules”.

This is “so that everyone in the world can have a stable, critical rules-based system for trade to flow and for economic development to progress”, he explained.

“There will be adjustments regardless of the outcomes of the talks. There will be shifts in the global supply chains and this will have a direct and indirect impact on our economy,” said Mr Chan.