Singapore Pledges to Stay Connected as Trade Barriers Rise

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Singapore pledged its commitment to globalization despite the coronavirus pandemic inspiring a rise in protectionist trade policies worldwide.

“For many countries, Covid-19 has accelerated the retreat from globalization, and the erection of more protectionist barriers.” Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday. “We must resist these pressures.”

“A less connected world means a poorer world and fewer opportunities for all. A less connected Singapore means fewer and poorer quality jobs for us,” Chan said.

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Singapore’s economy relies heavily on trade and Chan echoed efforts across the government to promote global cooperation, especially during the crisis. He told the foreign chambers of commercelast month that the country would work hard to maintain its reputation as a hub for business and investment.

The minister also emphasized the need to create jobs, skill up the city state’s labor and businesses and he spoke about plans to spend on modern, digital infrastructure. Planned long-term projects such as the fifth terminal at Changi airport, Tuas mega port and submarine cable hubs remain intact, though authorities will pace the timelines for these projects according to demand, he said.

An immediate focus is to create 100,000 jobs and training opportunities in the coming year, thrice the normal annual number, according to Chan. He said there will be job centers in every town to match displaced workers to new jobs, and there will be new employment openings in fields such as healthcare, early childhood education, transport and financial services.

More Attractive Safe Harbour

Singapore isn’t just focused on jobs for its citizens, but will make itself a “more attractive safe harbour” for talent, ideas and intellectual property to grow more businesses and create better jobs, the minister said. The country will intensify efforts to attract the best ideas and talent to compete on its side, according to Chan.

He said Singapore will continue to push its companies, people and students to expand their businesses and gain exposure abroad, once the Covid-19 situation allows.

“There are still many opportunities for us, but we must be on our toes,” Chan said. “Survival favors not the strong, but the agile.”

In the meantime, the minister cautioned against an expectation of a quick resumption of economic activity. Singapore hasremained committed to a gradual, phase-by-phase approach to ending its partial lockdown in a bid to avoid a second wave of infections. Reported infections have crossed the 40,000 mark in the city-state, amid an outbreak among migrant workers living in tightly-spaced dormitories.

— With assistance by Michelle Jamrisko

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