MORE business opportunities in technology and education are being explored by businesses in Singapore and the Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC) region as sectors of growth.
Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, speaking at the 12th edition of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore's Latin-Asia Business Forum (LABF) on Friday, noted that Singapore-LAC economic relations have deepened.
"We have seen good growth in commercial activities between Singapore and Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, there are more than 200 Singapore companies with 400 points of presence across the region, which is double the number of companies from 2015. The LABF and associated activities are a very important part of this effort, and we think it's an important platform that can grow in stature and effectiveness as the years progress."
E-commerce is thriving in LAC; the number of digital buyers in the region has grown from 97 million in 2014 to 131 million this year, so Singapore is seizing investment opportunities beyond traditional sectors of commodities, oil and gas and infrastructure.
On Friday, CrimsonLogic and the government of Suriname signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore a "single-window system" to facilitate customs clearance for trade; this follows CrimsonLogic's bagging of another such project in Bahamas late last year.
Another Singapore company, VR Collab, a start-up with capabilities in advanced virtual reality for real estate, infrastructure and construction development, has teamed up with Brazilian firm Construtivo, an engineering technology company focusing on engineering and infrastructure management, to implement a collaboration tool for architects, engineers and contractors to work on projects simultaneously before construction. The platform uses virtual reality to cut wastage and raise productivity.
In the last two years, companies such as Educare and Star Publishing have made their first forays into LAC, supporting educational reforms and working with the public and private sectors seeking to adopt Singapore's education framework, teaching methodology and content.
Singapore's bilateral trade in goods with LAC amounted to S$18.1 billion last year. Cumulative foreign direct investment from LAC into Singapore stood at S$16.5 billion in 2015.
In the same period, Singapore's stock of direct investment into the region was S$6.9 billion.
In April, engineering and masterplanning company Surbana Jurong opened its first office in Mexico; Ascott, CapitaLand's serviced residence operator, announced its entry into LAC through two franchises in Brazil.
G Jayakrishnan, group director for Emerging Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean in IE Singapore, said: "There is much potential for deeper trade and business with Latin America and the Caribbean. The stability and pro-business governments in major LAC markets present opportunities for Singapore businesses. In the current global economic environment, we expect LAC to look increasingly towards Asia to diversify investments and tap its growth."