Covid-19 gives new impetus for Asean economic integration, says Tan See Leng

SINGAPORE – The Covid-19 pandemic has given new impetus to integration of the Asean economies, said Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng on Tuesday (Sept 15).

“The Asean region, with (its) promising long-term growth potential… presents multiple opportunities, not just for Singapore businesses, but for foreign direct investment into Singapore,” he said.

“With many countries turning inwards, it is even more important now for Singapore and Asean to continue to advance regional integration, to remain committed to an open and rules-based regional economic environment,” he added.

Dr Tan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Manpower, was speaking on a panel titled “Capitalising New World Order and Regionalism amidst more Dynamic Global Relations” at the FutureChina Global Forum held online.

Singapore has been actively championing the economic integration of Asean. When the Republic was Asean chair in 2018, it helped grow investment opportunities in the service sector and pushed for the region’s first agreement on e-commerce.

At the forum, Dr Tan said that Singapore is working with Asean to streamline non-tariff measures, starting with those imposed on essential items such as food and medical supplies.

“This will reduce impediment to the flow of these items (and) strengthen supply chain connectivity,” he added.

Asean has also put in place cost-lowering measures to help facilitate trade in the region, he said.

One example is the Aseanwide Self-Certification regime, which starts on Sept 20.

The regime allows certified exporters to self-certify the origin of their goods and thus enjoy preferential treatment under the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement.

It aims to help businesses save costs as they will not need to apply to the authorities for the hard copy certificate.

An Asean online sale day, which was held on Aug 8 as part of efforts to boost e-commerce trade in the region, had also attracted about 100 companies from Singapore, Dr Tan said.

“We are also moving to embark (on more) regional trade agreements, so that we can foster closer regional economic integration, at a time when most of the world seems to be going down a more isolationist path”, he added.

The panel was moderated by Mr Ravi Velloor, an associate editor at The Straits Times.

Besides Dr Tan, the panellists are Mr Dith Tina, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Cambodia; Dr Randall S. Kroszner, deputy dean of executive programmes and Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Mr Steven Ciobo, a former minister for trade, tourism and investment in Australia; and Mr Michael Ding, global executive director at greentech firm Envision Group.

The three-day forum ends on Thursday.

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