TL;DR – Minister Chan also talked about PMET jobs, foreigners, FTAs and the US-China trade deal.
I cannot stress more the importance of how Singapore lives by trade. In fact, I’d go so far as to say trade is our lifeline.
So, when I saw that Zaobao has an exclusive interview with our Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Monday, I was eager to hear what he has to say about what we can look forward to in terms of trade and investments in the coming year, and I also wanted to hear his views on issues like world trade and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) like CECA, which has been a hot button topic these few months.
It turns out there are three different articles that Zaobao had published from their interview with Minister Chan. One article was on our economic outlook for 2020 and beyond, a second article was on FTAs and a third article on the China-US trade deal and deglobalisation.
I’ll capture some of the key points from the three articles and summarise for the readers here.
Chan Chun Sing: Cautiously optimistic about economic outlook for 2020 and beyond
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing gave the assurance that although the Singapore economy is facing external resistance and risk factors, it has been able to continue attracting larger and high-quality investments. As such, Minister Chan has expressed that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the economic outlook for Singapore for the next two years.
Minister Chan revealed that the average yearly investment in the next few years would likely reach $10 billion each year, exceeding projections. There was a total of $8.1 billion investments in the first half of 2019, though investments in Q3 dipped steeply. This is our best showing since 2012, and is within MTI’s projection of $8 to $10 billion range.
Minister Chan added that the quality of investment projects had also improved, and included long-term investments in areas such as chemical engineering and bio-pharmaceutical sectors, as well as rapidly-growing industries. On top of these, we also have the $9 billion expansion plan for our two integrated resorts.
Specifically, Minister Chan had said,
“When overseas businesses invest in Singapore, they’re increasingly looking at the four aspects of long-term stability, protection of intellectual properties, how holistic and comprehensive our legal system and framework is and also our network and connectivity (including connectivity in terms of data and financial services).”
“These are areas that we’ve traditionally been strong in and have further strengthened these unique advantages and hence, Singapore has been able to attract the next wave and generation of business investments. In the coming one to two years, we’re of the view that Singapore’s economy outlook is still fairly strong and resilient, hence we are cautiously optimistic.”
On the challenges faced by the Singapore economy, Minister Chan shared that it is increasingly difficult to create more PMET jobs given the fact that 57 out of 100 Singaporean workers were already holding a PMET job. This ratio far surpassed that of many other countries.
He pointed out that to continue creating PMET positions, the number of high quality jobs had to increase as well and there had to be enough local talent for such jobs.
“For us to attract the foreign investments that can create high quality and high value jobs, then every single Singaporean’s PMET job has to be increasingly higher quality and higher value. Although we will do everything we can to train and upskill more Singaporeans, there is still a shortage when it comes to local talents.”
“I know some Singaporeans find it hard to accept this fact, and some even harbour the mentality that the foreigners are out to steal our jobs. But the reality is, whether this job exists in Singapore or elsewhere in overseas market, if our own standards or skills are not up to mark, these jobs will be taken away.”
Minister Chan reassured that the Government will continue to do its part to invest more in training and do more to support Singaporeans so that we can handle these higher quality, higher value work that is obviously more demanding.
The Government will also watch for and take action against hiring practices that are unfair towards Singaporeans.
On Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)
Minister Chan talked about the benefits of FTAs and how the FTAs that Singapore had signed with many countries could enhance Singapore’s economic connectivity and achieve a “Changi Airport effect”, in the same way that Changi Airport was able to help airlines to make wider and deeper connections to other parts of the world.
On US-China trade deal and the issue of deglobalisation
On the US-China trade negotiations, Minister Chan noted that even if the two countries could reach an initial agreement, it would not resolve the anti-globalisation (deglobalisation) sentiments that were spreading globally as the conflict between the US and China had its roots in globalisation and technology, and these were global issues that other countries were also facing.
Here are the links to the three Zaobao articles from their interview with Minister Chan, I recommend that you read them all if you can read Chinese,
- Minister Chan Chun Sing on our economic outlook for 2020
- Minister Chan Chun Sing on how our FTA network can achieve connectivity effect much like our Changi Airport
- Minister Chan Chun Sing on how the signing of the China-US trade deal may not solve the deglobalisation problem
There is also a short video capturing Minister Chan taking up Zaobao’s challenge to answer some important questions succinctly in under three minutes.