Parliament: Ways businesses can manage global uncertainties

SINGAPORE - Singapore needs to diversify and innovate to manage uncertainties in the world, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Tuesday (Sept 3).

The uncertainties have gone beyond the United States-China trade conflict to include Brexit, tensions between Japan and Korea and the situation in Hong Kong, among others, he said. It is also a multifaceted challenge that covers not just trade, but also technology issues.

He was replying to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on how Singapore's small and medium-sized enterprises, regional headquarters, multinational companies and the workforce can protect themselves from the side effects of a US-China trade stand-off.

"We should continuously diversify our markets, supply chains and product mix," he said, as he urged Singapore companies to venture farther afield to countries still experiencing strong and positive growth.

He pointed out that they can tap Singapore's diversified portfolio of free trade agreements (FTAs).

Mr de Souza also asked whether Singapore would consider having more regional trade and innovation pacts to overcome the US-China trade stand-off and Brexit.

In his reply, Mr Chan said that more than 90 per cent of Singapore's trade is already covered by existing FTAs.

Still, the Republic will continue to expand its network of FTAs, both in terms of number as well as quality, he said.


The Government is also working with the United Kingdom on an agreement that will seek to continue existing arrangements Singapore has with the UK as part of the European Union, he added.

Citing the lively start-up community in Asean and companies like Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab, he said innovation enables companies to offer their products across different markets.

Countries should also leverage one another's strengths to serve the region's combined population of more than 600 million, he added.

Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera asked about the Government's level of satisfaction with the progress of innovation and capabilities among Singapore companies.

Mr Chan replied that a key challenge is how to translate money into research outcomes, and these outcomes into money.

"We must have an environment where both entrepreneurs and scientists are able to constantly mix with one another and generate ideas," he said.