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SBF Calls for Asian Governments to Work Collaboratively in Managing COVID-19 and Reopening Borders at the 11th Asian Business Summit

Monday, 9 November 2020 [Singapore]
– The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) joined business leaders from 11 other Asian economies1 at the 11th Asian Business Summit (ABS) organised by Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) on 6 November. Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO of SBF, represented the Singapore business community at the virtual summit.

Recognising the immense socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders from 16 business organisations2 convened virtually to share and discuss the challenges faced by member economies. Participants also exchanged economic and industrial strategies implemented by their respective governments, business communities and the private sector.

Speaking at the first plenary session, Mr Ho shared how Singapore has responded to COVID-19, and called on policymakers, business leaders, and international organisations to further international cooperation towards a global solution to tackle the pandemic and seek new business opportunities.

Reflecting on ABS, Mr Ho said, “Although fiscal support measures provide businesses with much-needed relief, such measures are costly to the economy and unsustainable in the long run. Governments should work on reopening borders in a safe and globally consistent manner in order to generate demand and the economic activity that businesses need. Singapore has taken concrete steps to do so by establishing and negotiating bilateral Reciprocal Green Lanes (RGLs) and air travel bubbles with countries and regions to allow for the safe resumption of travel. This is instrumental in enabling the global economy to recover and thrive in the longer-term.”

As a global hub and an open economy that is heavily dependent on a seamless cross-border flow of goods and people, Singapore has taken calibrated steps towards the safe reopening of our borders through a risk-based border management approach. This was enabled by Singapore’s success in bringing our domestic situation under control with little to no community spread during the past few weeks; Singapore has managed to maintain the lowest COVID-19 fatality rate in the world, which at approximately 0.05 per cent, is well below the global average of around 3 per cent. The setting up of a system of health measures to manage the risk of imported cases, including rapid and accurate COVID-19 testing and contact tracing technology, has enabled the gradual safe resumption of essential travel and provide overseas business travellers the ease of attending physical meetings in Singapore.

In response to discussions on other trade and investment issues, Mr Ho expressed the Singapore business community’s staunch support for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the rules-based multilateral trading system. Mr Ho also urged WTO to foster closer collaboration with the private sector and to promptly conclude negotiations on the Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce. There remains an urgent need for the WTO rulebook to address new and emerging economic issues such as digital trade, which are particularly important in enabling smaller businesses to take part in global trade. On the part of SBF, a digital marketplace is being set up to help businesses connect with partners in the region, scale, and expand.

Through the ABS Joint Statement, the Asian business community representatives called for the strengthening of a free and open international economic system, including the early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement and the expansion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). They highlighted the necessity for re-establishing connectivity in the region, progressing digital transformation, and promoting investment for a decarbonised society in the economic recovery. In undertaking these endeavours, Asian business leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work and coordinate closely with governments.

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