Transcript of intervention by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the APEC Informal Leaders' Retreat on 16 July 2021.
Thank you Prime Minister Ardern, and thank you for hosting this informal Leaders’ Retreat. International cooperation is critical as countries learn to live with endemic COVID-19 and prepare for the post-COVID-19 future. I would like to highlight three areas of collaboration.
First, we must work together to prepare for the next pandemic. COVID-19 will not be the last, nor the most serious pandemic the world will face. As the G20 High Level Independent Panel highlighted in its recent report, security from pandemics depends on bolstering multilateralism. The Panel makes a strong case for a major step-up in our collective investments, including in a scaled-up global surveillance system for emerging infectious disease outbreaks. To enable countries to act early to check the spread of emerging diseases, and get a head- start in developing test kits, vaccines or treatments; and secondly, we need a more agile global governance and financing mechanism that can swiftly plug gaps in global health security. Within our region, APEC economies should support one another, both for the present and future pandemics. For example, through technical assistance to strengthen national public health capabilities, the last mile. And also, countries whose vaccination programmes are ahead should make their excess vaccine supplies available to others. Thus, Singapore intends to donate our vaccines under the COVAX initiative to other countries.
Secondly, APEC members should take the lead to reconnect our economies and pursue trade liberalisation. COVID-19 has disrupted international trade and movement of people across borders. Understandably, countries are working towards more self-reliance, especially for essential goods, but we should not take this too far. Free trade is still essential to global economic recovery and prosperity and prompt implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement will make trade faster and cheaper, and strengthen our supply chains. We should also work together to restart international travel safely, by developing common standards for digital vaccine certificates and digital identities.
Third, we should cooperate on new areas of economic growth. COVID-19 has already accelerated the switch to a digital economy. Singapore has piloted Digital Economy Agreements with like-minded economies – New Zealand, Chile and Australia. These Digital Economy Agreements align rules and standards, and foster cross-border digital interoperability, data flows and trade. Beyond COVID- 19, the green economy presents another growth opportunity. Like many APEC economies, Singapore is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. We have a comprehensive national strategy, called the Singapore Green Plan 2030, to mitigate climate change, and to create a green, liveable and sustainable city. But being a very small country, our own mitigation efforts will have limited impact. It is only by working together with others that we can overcome this global challenge, and that is why Singapore is exploring Green Economy Agreements to facilitate trade and investment in environmental goods and services, and strengthen environmental governance and capabilities.
We look forward to collaborating with our APEC partners on the digital and green economies, and other initiatives, so that we can all emerge stronger together to a better post-COVID-19 future.
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