Diversify, innovate, train to weather global uncertainty: Chan Chun Sing

TO weather ongoing global uncertainty, Singapore's national strategy is to diversify, innovate, and train, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Tuesday.

He was responding to Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza, who asked how Singapore-based firms and workers can protect themselves from the effects of the trade war between the United States and China, and how innovation can help.

Mr Chan prefaced his response by noting that global uncertainties today are not limited to the tensions between US and China, but includes issues of Brexit, Japan and South Korea, Hong Kong, and others. The uncertainties have also affected the functioning of the World Trade Organisation system.

He laid out the government's approach. Firstly, Singapore is working to diversify its markets, supply chains, and product mix. This includes diversifying its portfolio of free trade agreements (FTAs), so companies can access markets around the world.

The government is working closely with companies to ensure sources of materials, labour, and other factors of production stay resilient. At the economy-wide level, Singapore must diversify its "product mix".

In innovation, more must be done to transfer research outcomes to enterprises. As for training, it is important for Singapore to focus not just on worker training, but training of leadership as well, said Mr Chan.

Replying to Mr de Souza's further question about whether there would be more regional trade pacts to overcome the effects of US-China trade tensions and Brexit, Mr Chan noted that more than 90 per cent of Singapore's trade is already covered by existing FTAs. While Singapore will continue to expand both the quantity and quality of its FTAs, beyond reducing tariffs, it must also focus on non-tariff barriers, he said.