Transcript of speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 27th World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi, Vietnam, 12 September 2018.
Your excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Professor Klaus Schwab for organising this event. It brings together regional leaders, academics and businesses to share their views on how ASEAN should respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. The global economy is being fundamentally transformed by new and far reaching breakthroughs in technologies. Businesses are changing the way they operate, workers are using technology to become more productive, customers are changing how they make their purchases, and markets are growing bigger and becoming increasingly integrated.
Here in ASEAN, member states are in a good position to take advantage of the new opportunities that this 4IR can bring.
First of all, our economic fundamentals are robust. ASEAN will become the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030, after the US, China and the European Union. We have a young and educated workforce. 60% of our population is under 35 years old. They are comfortable with new technology and the digital economy in ASEAN is projected to grow to reach US$200 billion by 2025.
Secondly, ASEAN is committed to further economic integration. This is an important condition for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, because it is about building networks, creating new synergies and staying connected. ASEAN member states have been working together towards the ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2025, so that ASEAN businesses can operate more seamlessly across the region. It is important to involve the businesses because the private sector, especially the small and medium enterprises, is the backbone of our economies and source of entrepreneurship.
ASEAN is also working with like-minded partners to strengthen the open and rules-based multilateral trading system. It is a system has underpinned our growth and stability, but is under pressure and even threat. This is why ASEAN is doing our utmost to make progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and hope to achieve a substantial conclusion to the RCEP by the end of the year, although this is not yet assured.
As ASEAN Chairman this year, Singapore is working with our ASEAN colleagues and partners to develop initiatives under the themes of “resilience and innovation” in order to use technology to benefit our businesses and peoples. For example we have concluded an ASEAN Agreement on e-commerce, will streamline e-commerce regulations so that businesses can market and sell their products easily within ASEAN. And an ASEAN Single Window will expedite cross-border customs cargo clearance to cut transaction costs using a single online platform. We have also established the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, comprising 26 pilot cities including Hanoi. It is a network that provides a platform for cities to cooperate and to share experiences. The network is also working with external partners as well as the private sector. The ASEAN Smart Cities Network completed its first round of meetings last July and has already launched several projects. For example collaborating with Chonburi’s Amata Smart City in Thailand and the Yokohama Urban Solution Alliance on a smart energy management system and there will be many more collaborations to come.
To boost regional economic integration and adoption of technology, Singapore will upgrade our three centres for the Initiative for ASEAN Integration. The Centres are in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos and we will upgrade them to become Singapore Cooperation Centres. The new Centres will expand our range of technical assistance beyond classroom-based courses, which will allow Singapore to share our experiences and practices more effectively, so that we can better learn from each other.
Bilaterally, between Singapore and Vietnam, we have established seven Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs). They are doing well, bringing in more than US$11 billion worth of investment capital from 800 international companies, generating more than 200,000 jobs. The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks are a strong pillar of our deep economic relations, and they form invaluable infrastructure for Vietnam and Singapore companies to benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Singapore will also be hosting the Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific, ITAP, this October. It is the inaugural Asian edition of Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair. It will expose ASEAN companies to the latest industrial technologies, and we hope that through ITAP, we can build an Asian Industry 4.0 community, where manufacturers, technology providers and innovators can share their latest ideas and technologies. This will help ASEAN countries to upgrade their manufacturing sectors, which is a key pillar of many ASEAN economies, including Singapore’s.
These are just some of the initiatives ASEAN and Singapore are working on to prepare for the future economy. They are practical steps to promote ASEAN’s use of technology in how we live, work, and play.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a dynamic and continuing process. We cannot predict how exactly it will unfold, but I am optimistic about ASEAN’s future because ASEAN has its own competitive strengths, and by pooling our ideas and resources and integrating our economies, we will be in a strong position to ride on this fourth wave to bring tangible benefits to our economies and our peoples.
Thank you very much.
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