DPM Heng Swee Keat at the 2021 Caixin Summit Singapore

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 12 November 2021

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the 2021 Caixin Summit Singapore on 12 November 2021.


Read the Chinese translation of the speech below.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

A very good morning to all of you. 在北京的朋友大家好。

COVID-19 Preamble 

I am glad that we are able to convene the Caixin Summit, despite COVID-19. This pandemic has exerted a huge toll on the world. The world experienced its deepest recession since the Great Depression. Countless jobs have been disrupted. The human toll has also been tragic, with more than 5 million lives lost so far. 

This pandemic is far from over, but a key lesson so far is that when tackling global challenges such as COVID-19, there can be no substitute for global leadership. There were many bright spots in this crisis. We saw an unprecedented level of scientific cooperation, paving the way for the development of vaccines at record speed. The world also came together to form the COVAX facility, to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines. But we could have done better. The lack of global coordination, especially at the start of the crisis, pointed to a global leadership deficit. Much more can also be done to ensure that the least developed countries receive sufficient vaccines. 

As the world seeks to recover from the pandemic, we will have to navigate a much more uncertain and complex landscape. The global economy is on the mend, with strong growth projected this year and next. But this cannot be taken as a given. Many regions are still fighting recurrent waves of infection, and we cannot discount the threat of new variants emerging. Beyond COVID-19, there are other challenges that the world faces, as articulated by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are far from achieving the 2030 targets that were collectively agreed upon. So we will need greater global leadership as we navigate the more uncertain and complex road ahead. This will not be easy. The urgent need to close the leadership gaps come at a time of stress to the global order – with rising tensions from geopolitical contestation, and fraying consensus around globalisation. I hope to share some thoughts today on how we can better focus global leadership on economic recovery and other challenges. I would like to mention 3 “P”s – Partnerships, People, and our Planet.  


First, we need to find new building blocks for global economic partnership. In the post-COVID recovery, economic integration is a key pathway to enable countries to create growth and help workers to realise their potential. The lifeblood of economic integration is trade. As a former trade negotiator, I know that trade liberalisation is not easy, given that countries have different economic structures and are at different stages of growth. Trade negotiations are often hard-fought, and consensus hard-earned. I was in Doha in 2001 when China joined the WTO. This was a significant step in global economic integration, but momentum has since stalled. 

I hope that we can rejuvenate the important work of building a stronger multilateral trading system. But even without a comprehensive global agreement, it is still possible to make progress. One way of doing so is for like-minded partners to establish free trade agreements, which reduce tariff barriers and drive investment flows. 

Take for example the RCEP, signed between ASEAN and five of our FTA partners. This is the world’s largest trade pact, covering one-third of the world’s population and GDP. I am pleased that the RCEP will come into force in January next year. The RCEP will expand regional trade flows, deepen cross-border production linkages, and boost the region’s competitiveness as a location for supply chains.      

The RCEP complements another major trade agreement, that came into force at the end of 2018 – the CPTPP. The CPTPP has chapters that go beyond the traditional scope of FTAs to address emerging business challenges such as the digital economy and the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in trade. Despite the US pulling out, with Japan’s leadership, the remaining economies came together to conclude the agreement.  

Beyond trade, another new building block for global partnership is digital cooperation. COVID-19 has accelerated the global shift to digital. With the growth of the digital economy, there is also a growing need to foster greater inter-operability, enable the trusted flow of data and facilitate cross border transactions. One way to strengthen integration of the digital economy is to develop facilitative digital trade rules, through Digital Economy Agreements with our key partners. For example, the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, or DEPA, between Singapore, Chile and New Zealand is the first such agreement concluded by Singapore. 

These frameworks can be building blocks for greater global economic partnership. Instead of keeping out competition, these building blocks are meant to be open and inclusive, with the view of welcoming more like-minded partners over time. So I am glad that some economies, including China, have applied or expressed an interest to join the CPTPP and the DEPA. Singapore welcomes like-minded partners to be part of these regional frameworks. By growing these frameworks over time, and using these as building blocks, we can realise the vision of a more economically integrated global trading system.  

A more open and inclusive regional economy will create more opportunities for countries to make a strong recovery.  But it will not happen naturally, coming at a time when societies are wary of the benefits of globalisation and openness. Stronger leadership will be needed for countries to hold the course. If we succeed in doing so, we can put the world on a firmer and more stable footing for the future. 


This brings me to my next point. To win the necessary support for greater economic integration, governments around the world must ensure that their people benefit from globalisation.    

Globalisation has brought about tremendous benefits for the world. The period of rapid globalisation after the second world war led to a dramatic increase in global prosperity, with a transfer of know-how and more efficient allocation of resources. In recent decades, China’s reform and opening up in the late 1970s, and India’s economic liberalisation since the early 1990s, illustrate the power of market forces in uplifting the lives of billions of people. 

But in recent years, support for globalisation has waned. Even as liberalisation and openness drive efficiency and growth, it has also introduced new stresses. The same forces of disruptions that have led to a step-change in innovation and output have also displaced many jobs and livelihoods. Some workers have found it harder to keep pace with skills upgrading and take on new roles. Median wages in many developed economies have stagnated. Inequality has widened as a result. 

Countries are seeking new ways to redistribute the benefits of globalisation. The new agreement on a global minimum tax is one example of how countries are seeking to channel more taxes towards needs like their social programs. But a pure redistribution is a “zero-sum game”. Each country can better benefit from globalisation if it commits to growing the overall pie – by transforming their companies and investing in their people across all ages – so that they can better capture the opportunities of globalisation. This is the true benefit of globalisation – a “win-win” paradigm where businesses and workers in all countries get to gain. This was how it was in the early decades of globalisation, and we can restore this paradigm. But investing in people and companies requires strong global leadership. Years of investments are needed, before rewards can be seen. But if countries are unable to make these investments, we will not be able to rejuvenate globalisation, and the world would be the worse for it.  

As a small and open economy, Singapore is acutely aware that we will be affected by the structural forces sweeping through the global economy. We are doing all that we can to restructure our economy and drive transformation across all sectors. This takes commitment and patience. If we can continue to persevere, I believe our economy can emerge stronger from this crisis, our workers will benefit, and we can contribute to the rejuvenation of globalisation.   

Protecting the Planet

This brings me to my third point. The planet. There is another area of growth that requires long-term investment, at an even longer time-horizon than economic transformation – climate change. This is an existential issue for the world. Extreme weather events are already commonplace – floods, droughts, forest fires. In Southeast Asia, the consequences will be stark – sea levels in this region are rising faster than elsewhere.

A green transition is necessary, but it will not be easy. Because there are sharp trade-offs involved. Take carbon tax. It is the most economically efficient mechanism to curb climate change. But raising carbon taxes is not easy. In the short-term, there will be upward cost pressure for households and companies. This will affect cost of living and our competitiveness. However, raising carbon taxes is necessary to spur bold moves that will create a more sustainable future for everyone in the long term. This is why Singapore is reviewing our post-2023 carbon tax trajectory and level. Making the transition will not be easy. The ongoing global energy crisis is a reminder that transitions are not always seamless, and we need to pace our transition well.      Hence, tackling climate change requires strong and sustained global leadership. We have made some progress – the Paris Agreement was a historic milestone. The ongoing COP-26 in Glasgow has injected fresh urgency and ambition into the global effort. The climate change pact announced on Wednesday between China and the US is most welcome. It is a strong signal that US and China – the 2 largest economies in the world – are prepared to set aside differences to exercise global leadership to jointly tackle the climate crisis. But much more needs to be done if we are to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.      One area that can make a big difference to achieving our climate goals is in sustainable tech. This is a global challenge that I hope the best minds in the world can focus their attention on. Singapore has made R&D in sustainability a key priority, in areas such as making low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture more feasible. By working together with researchers from around the world, we can accelerate the productisation and scaling of these solutions. For example, as we become more digital, the world is also generating a huge amount of e-waste each year – more than 50 million tonnes, equivalent in weight to 350 cruise ships. Researchers from Singapore and France have come together to set up a world-first research centre to develop greener ways of recycling e-waste. One encouraging outcome so far is that they have developed new methods to increase the efficiency of recycling valuable metals from lithium-ion batteries. We look forward to more collaborations with partners from around the world.


To conclude, the challenges facing us are significant as we work towards a global recovery from the worst recession in a century. But I am optimistic. While the global order is under strain, COVID-19 has shown that the world also has deep reserves of ingenuity and resilience. The theme in this 12th Caixin Summit is Building a Community of Shared Future. If the global community can come together and exercise greater leadership, focusing our efforts on Partnerships, People, and the Planet, I have every confidence that we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before. 

Thank you, and I look forward to our dialogue. 


* * * * * 

Chinese translation of the English speech made by DPM Heng Swee Keat at Caixin Summit 2021





我们要完全走出冠病疫情还需要很长的一段时间。不过,在这次疫情中,我 们也认识到要应对全球挑战,就必须仰赖全球领导力。令人欣慰的是,我们从这场危机看到些曙光。全球以史无前例的方式 开展了科学研究合作项目,以最快的速度成功研发冠病疫苗。各个国 家也携手参与制定 “冠病疫苗全球获取机制” ,确保疫苗能公平地 分配到世界各地。但其实,我们可以做得更好。尤其是在疫情暴发初期,各国之间欠缺 协调,凸显了全球领导力的不足。另外,我们也应该尽更大的努力, 以确保较为落后的国家也能获得足够的疫苗。

在各国致力从疫情中复苏的当儿,我们将会面对一个更无常和复杂的局面。全球经济正在逐渐好转,预计今年和明年将能取得强劲的增长。但我 们不能视这一切为理所当然。许多地区目前正在极力对抗新一波疫情 来袭,我们也不能忽视新毒株所带来的风险 。正如联合国可持续发展目标所阐述的,全球还面临着冠病疫情以外的 其他威胁。我们还未实现先前一致通过的2030年可持续发展目标,距 离落实目标仍有一段距离。因此,我们需要更强大的全球领导力,才能应对未来更复杂、更加不 明朗的局势。这不容易做到。由于地缘政治纠纷导致紧张局势升温, 再加上全球化的共识也不断减退,因此全球秩序陷入困境,这使得我 们迫切需要弥补全球领导力这方面的缺失。今天我希望跟大家分享我的一些想法,谈一谈如何更好地将全球领导 力用在经济复苏上。我今天想要谈论三大课题:伙伴关系(Partnerships)、投资于民(People),以及爱护地球(Planet)。



在疫情后复苏的进程中,经济一体化会是促使各国创造增长机遇、协助员工 发挥潜能的关键。贸易是经济一体化的命脉。我曾经是一名贸易谈判代表,熟知贸易自由化得来不易,毕竟各个国家和地区的经济结构也处在不同的发展阶段。贸易谈判往往需要 多番协商,竭力取得共识。中国在2001年的多哈会议加入世界贸易组织时,我也在现场。这是全 球迈向经济一体化的重要进程,可是近几年来全球化步伐却放 缓,甚至停滞不前。

因此,我希望我们能够为强化多边贸易体系这项重要的工作注入新的活 力。即使没有全面的全球协议,我们也能取得进展。其中一个方法是与志同道合的合作伙伴建立自由贸易协定,以减少关 税壁垒并推动投资流动。

比如亚细安(东盟)与五个自贸协定伙伴所签署的《区域全面经济伙伴关系 协定》(RCEP):它是全球最大的贸易协定,涵盖全球三分之一的人口及国内生产总值 (GDP)。 我很高兴RCEP将在明年1月起生效。 它将扩大区域贸易流动、深化跨境生产联系,并提高本区域作为供应 链所在地的竞争力。

RCEP也同另一项主要贸易协定相辅相成,即2018年底生效的《跨太平洋伙伴 全面进展协定》(CPTPP,中国称为《全面与进步跨太平洋伙伴关系协 定》)。CPTPP的章节涵盖了传统自贸协定以外的范畴,以应对数码经济及中小 企业参与贸易等新兴商业挑战。尽管美国后来退出,但其余11个经济体在日本的领导下共同缔结协 定。

除了贸易领域,数码合作是建立全球伙伴关系的另一基石。冠病疫情加速了全球数码化进程。随着数码经济增长,各国也更需要 提高互通性、保障数据可信流通、促进跨境交易。为加强数码经济一体化,其一做法是与关键伙伴缔结数码经济协定, 建立促进数码贸易的规则。例如,新加坡就同智利和新西兰签订了首个《数码经济伙伴协定》(DEPA)。

这些框架可作为基石,打造更广泛的全球经济伙伴关系。其意并非排除竞争,而贵在开放、包容的心态,期许未来不断有更多志同道合的伙伴加入。因此,我很高兴一些经济体,包括中国,已经申请或表示有意加入CPTPP和DEPA。我国欢迎志同道合的伙伴加入这些区域框架。长期发展这些框架,我们就能实现愿景,打造一个更好的全球贸易体系,促进经济深度融 合。

区域经济若更开放、包容,各国就能享有更多机遇,复苏也会更强劲。但这不会自然形成,毕竟现今,许多国家对全球化和开放经济能带来 的利益,存有疑虑。国家要想持续前进,就须有强大的领导力。若我们能取得成功,全世 界在迈向未来的道路上,将更加安稳。



全球化给世界带来了巨大的利益。第二次世界大战后,全球化迅速展开,这促使全球各地快速繁荣起 来,也带动知识的分享和更有效的资源分配。近几十年来,中国在上世纪70年代末的改革开放,以及印度自上世纪 90年代初以来的经济自由化,都说明了市场力量大大改善了数十亿人的生活。

但最近几年,支持全球化的声量越来越弱了。尽管自由化和市场开放推动了增长和效率,却带来了新的市场压力。为我们带来创新和生产改变的力量也同样让许多人失去工作,影响了 他们的生计。一些员工发现,要跟上技能提升的步伐并适应新的工作职能,愈加困难。许多发达经济体的工资中位数停滞不前, 扩大了不平等现象。 17.各国正在寻求新的方式,重新分配全球化所带来的利益。新的全球最低企业税率协定就是一个例子,说明各国正在设法将更多的税收用于应对需求,比如他们的社会福利项目。但纯粹的重新分配是一场“零和博弈”。各国是能够从全球化获得更多利益的。只要大家致力于企业转型和对各年龄层人民的投资,以促 进全球经济继续增长,就能更好地把握全球化所带来的机遇。这才是全球化真正的好处 —— 一个所有国家的企业和员工都能从中获 益的双赢模式。这就是全球化早期的面貌,而我们可以恢复这种模 式。但投资在企业和人民方面需要强大的全球领导力。我们需要投资多 年,才能看到回报。如果各国无法注入这些投资,我们就无法振兴全 球化,国际环境会因此变得更糟。

新加坡清楚地认识到,全球经济正在经历结构性变化,作为一个小而开放的经济体,我国难免深受影响。我们正竭尽所能重整经济,并在各领域中推动企业转型。不过,要取得成效,还需各行各业有耐心,并尽全力支持。如果我们能携手同心面对挑战,我相信我国在危机后会变得更坚韧, 员工们将从中受惠。而且,新加坡也能为后疫情的全球经济复苏做出贡献。


接下来,让我谈谈第三个重点——气候变化。我们在应对气候变化方面可以做得更多,也需要长期投资,所付出的时间甚至要比推动经济转型来得更长 久。气候变化给人类的生存构成威胁。许多地区都经历了极端的天气变化,包括频密的水灾、旱灾和林火事件。在东南亚,这些极端天气所导致的后果会更加险峻,我们海平面上升的速度比其他区域来得更快。

因此,我们需要大力推动绿色发展,但转型并不容易, 因为我们需要付出许多代价。就拿征收碳税做一个例子。为了缓解气候变化的冲击,征收碳税是最经济有效的方法。但是,要提高碳税不是一件容易的事。短期内,这会让家庭和企业承受成本上升的压力,进而影响人们的生活费以及企业的竞争力。但是,增加碳税是必要的,因为这才能推动新加坡往更可持续的未来 迈进,让人人受益。因此,新加坡正在检讨2023年后的碳税水平和未 来趋势。过渡到绿色经济并不容易。持续的全球能源危机提醒了我们,过渡阶 段不一定完美无缝,我们也需要做出适当调整。

因此,要应对气候变化,我们需要各国领导人持续展现更果断的领导力。我 们已经取得一些进展,联合国通过《巴黎气候协定》,就是历史上的一个重 要里程碑。仍在苏格兰城市格拉斯哥进行的联合国气候大会(COP-26),再次让 大家认识到世界各国必须更迫切合作和做出更大的承诺,以应对气候变化。中国和美国在星期三达成强化气候行动联合宣言令人鼓舞,也发出了强烈的信号:世界最大的两个经济体中国和美国愿意放下分歧,领导全世界一同应对气候危机。但是,要将全球气温升高控制在1.5摄氏度以内,我们还需要做出更多的努力。

要达成定下的气候目标,可持续科技可以发挥巨大的作用。我希望全世界的顶尖人才能携手合作,全力解决这个挑战。新加坡已将可持续发展相关的研发工作列为重点,包括在低碳氢和碳捕集等方面研究更可行的方案。我们和世界各地的研究人员合作,使 这些解决方案可以更快成为产品,并加速扩大其使用规模。让我举个例子。随着数码化的步伐加快,全球每年产生超过5千万吨的电子垃圾,相当于350艘邮轮的重量。来自新加坡和法国的研究员就携手设立世界第一所研究中心,研究如何以更环保的方式再循环电子垃圾。目前,他们取得的成果令人鼓 舞,其中一项就是以新的方式,更有效地从锂电池提取稀有金属。我们期待和世界各地的伙伴们展开更多合作。


总的来说,我们经历了全球经济百年来最严重的衰退,大家为全球经济复苏 努力之际,也面对巨大挑战。尽管如此,我对未来充满信心。面对冠病疫情,全球秩序虽然倍受压力,但世人也在逆境中展示不凡的创造力和韧性。第12届,也就是本届财新峰会的主题是“为了命运共同体”。国际社会如果能携手合作,发挥更强大的领导力,尽全力加强合作、投资于 民,和爱护地球,我有信心,我们将越战越勇,以更强大的姿态走出 这场危机。