PM Lee Hsien Loong at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on 12 November 2018 at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.
Dr Robert Yap, Chair of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a pleasure to join you today at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit hosted in Singapore.
The ASEAN Economic Community is a vibrant, inter-connected region of 630 million people. It is already the sixth largest economy in the world, and is projected to become the fourth largest by 2030 after the US, Europe and China. It is an attractive destination for investments. Last year, ASEAN attracted almost US$140 billion of foreign direct investments. Technological change is also creating new business opportunities, and the ASEAN digital economy projected to grow to US$200 billion by 2025. This will bring about many more opportunities for our micro, small and medium enterprises, and more jobs for our young and educated workforce
ASEAN Member States have grown and prospered because our governments have pursued economic cooperation. As our individual economies developed, we became more confident about deepening ties amongst ourselves, and also with others. We took progressive steps towards deeper economic integration and open-ness, believing this was the best way forward. The results are visible today, and yet there is so much more that ASEAN can do. For example, the ASEAN Single Window went “live” on 1 January this year for five ASEAN Member States, and we hope that all of ASEAN will be on board with the ASEAN Single Window by next year. This year, Member States signed the First Protocol to amend the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, and the 10th and final package of commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services. We also concluded the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement and the Fourth Protocol to amend the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement. Later today we will sign the ASEAN Agreement on e-Commerce, and endorse the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework, making ASEAN more business-friendly for e-commerce. These initiatives will promote trade and investment flows within ASEAN, reduce barriers and save costs for our businesses.
Businesses have to do their part too. Our companies hope to invest more in each other’s countries, and do business across all ASEAN markets. The more integrated and open our markets are, the more conducive our rules and business environments to foreign investment, the larger the pie will grow, and the more we will all benefit. But businesses are not always supportive when it comes to opening up our own domestic markets to foreign competition. They may lobby governments to impose regulations or keep industries closed to protect themselves. But having benefitted from ASEAN integration and open and connected economies, our businesses should be prepared to adapt and accept more competition in their home markets, in exchange for more access to markets in other ASEAN countries.
The ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) has played a key leadership role to influence this. It is working to improve physical and digital interconnectivity in ASEAN. For example, recently it launched Smart Growth Connect, which uses technology to improve supply chains and logistics in ASEAN cities. Later today, my fellow ASEAN leaders and I will discuss with ASEAN-BAC how regional economic integration efforts can be effective and relevant to business needs. Actually later tomorrow.
Perspectives and initiatives from businesses are important catalysts in ASEAN’s efforts to embrace innovation. I am happy that ASEAN-BAC’s recommendations to the ASEAN Economic Ministers this year also include proposals for digital transformation and I encourage businesses to take full advantage of these frameworks to expand their regional footprints.
ASEAN has great potential, but fully realising it depends on whether we choose to become more integrated, and work resolutely towards this goal in a world where multilateralism is fraying under political pressures. The AEC 2025 Blueprint will help guide ASEAN to deepen economic integration, open up new growth frontiers and create fresh business opportunities. We must play our respective parts as government and business leaders to pursue this vision. Only then can ASEAN continue to be a dynamic region of growth, and only then can we secure a prosperous future for all.
I wish you all a productive and successful conference. Thank you very much.
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