In his closing keynote speech at the 8th Asean-EU Business Summit at the Fullerton Hotel on Nov 19, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing says that we should not expect to return to the world as we know it before Covid-19.

Instead, Chan says the key to preparing our economies for the future is to “press on with our regional and global integration efforts”.

Asean, especially, should continue its efforts to encourage closer economic integration, to “bounce back and build a more inclusive, resilient and strong Asean for the long haul,” says Chan.

The heightened integration efforts will also present businesses and investors with a “more attractive proposition even as global production and supply chains shift,” he adds.

“Beyond its economic value, it is a statement of our strategic intent to have a shared interest in each other’s prosperity and success. This also contributes to our regional security,” he declares, citing Asean’s signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last Sunday.

In the same speech, Chan added that it is in the interest of the EU and European businesses to remain engaged in the region.

See:Asia Pacific nations sign the world's biggest regional free-trade deal

“While the US and China have their internal and bilateral issues to resolve, they comprise 1⁄4 of global GDP. The rest of the world, the other 3⁄4, including EU and ASEAN must also play our part to uphold and update the global security and economic architecture,” he says. “Global leadership cannot be the sole responsibility or burden of only the two largest economies.”

On collaboration between Singapore and the EU, Chan highlighted several opportunities to do so, including healthcare, digitalisation and sustainable development.

With healthcare, Chan noted that one of the ways for Singapore and EU to collaborate, is via the health tech and biomedical sectors, which are key industries that Singapore has prioritised and supported over the years.

On digitalisation, Chan said that the EU and Asean can be connected by digital platforms and standards.

“As an enabler, Digitalisation is critical in harnessing the potential of the region, and for Asean to participate more effectively in the global economy,” he says. “For example, in our efforts to streamline trade, all members have joined the Asean Single Window, which helps expedite cargo clearance through the electronic exchange of trade-related documents.”

“We are also exploring possibilities to enhance the platform, such as exchanging more documents and expanding the platform to our international partners as well,” he adds.

See:European businesses want better trade deals with Asean: survey

Chan revealed that Singapore is working on a series of Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs) with partners beyond the region, and that a DEA with the EU will “unlock more opportunities in Asean’s digital economy for the businesses in Europe”.

On sustainability, Chan says he welcomes greater cooperation with the EU in the area of sustainable development with both Singapore and the wider Asean region to enable both regions to “work towards a strong and sustainable recovery”.

“Asean and the EU must press on to strengthen integration and engagement, and build towards win-win outcomes,” he concluded. “This is not the preserve of Governments alone, and I call upon the business community to lend your voice and efforts to bring about greater integration… This cooperation and trust is especially precious in the face of global uncertainties and tensions.”