The UK-ASEAN Business Council (UKABC) and the Department for International Trade hosted a lunch for senior business figures with Antonia Romeo, Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Trade and Gabriel Lim, Permanent Secretary at Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry. Adding to the governmental firepower for the roundtable was Natalie Black, HM Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific, Kara Owen – British High Commissioner to Singapore and Foo Chi Hsia – Singapore High Commissioner to the UK.
The lunch was held prior to the 5th bilateral UK-Singapore Economic Business Partnership meeting and aimed to provide business input into the governments’ discussions on deepening the UK-Singapore trade relationship. Matt Cavanagh, Director of Group Government Relations, Prudential and Board Director, UKABC chaired the discussions.
Antonia Romeo noted that “Singapore and the UK are hugely important partners and share a focus on innovation and tech. We are particularly keen to explore how the UK and Singapore can collaborate and grow globally in the innovation and tech space.”
The discussion over lunch covered a range of issues that included green finance, the challenge of ageing populations, the impact of technology development on skills, equity markets and the importance of people mobility. Singapore’s double taxation policy with other ASEAN member states was also raised.
It was commented that one of the biggest issues now and in the future, given the fast rate of changing technology, is skills. The ability to retrain and upskill workforces needs to improve to allow individuals to adapt to the changing landscape of work.
The politics of inequality and the importance of socialising the benefits of free trade was also discussed. It was noted that it is essential for all governments to ensure that the growth is both inclusive and sustainable and the importance of communicating that free and open trade brings a net benefit. Trade has to work for everyone.
Gabriel Lim noted “Singapore is under-going transition. We are not growing at the rate we used to and are pivoting to focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. While technology is important, we are working with a huge base of companies that span a wide range of sectors and want to help them grow.”
Small things make a big difference and it was noted that the recent launch of the Frequent Traveller Programme for British passport holders to enjoy faster immigration clearance in Singapore was appreciated.
UK – Singapore Economic Business Partnership
The UK’s trade with Singapore is valued at £15bn, the highest in Southeast Asia. At £8.5bn, the UK’s exports of goods and services are even higher than the amount the UK exports to India. There are currently 8,000 Singaporean students in the UK and 45,000 British nationals with over 4,000 UK businesses in Singapore. Trade is growing but can get much better.
The Economic Business Partnership (EBP) aims to facilitate regular and strategic dialogue at the senior official level. The 5th EBP 2019 discussed improving trading relations and developing a joint industrial strategy. Topics discussed in the EBP included the proposed UK-Singapore FTA, UK collaboration with ASEAN, and areas for collaboration within digital trade and connectivity. There was an exchange of views on respective industrial strategies including in artificial intelligence collaboration, smart cities and clean growth as well as support for SMEs.
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