Countries should “avoid wars,” – Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat

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Photo: You Tube screengrab from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uay4IBVQl8

For countries to survive and thrive in today’s world, they should avoid wars, seek peace, work for stability, help one another, and strive to improve people’s lives. This is what Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat emphasized during his talk at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Wednesday (Jan 23).

He saw peace and stability as the top priorities of Singapore’s agenda, saying, “War is something we should never repeat.”

Mr. Heng likewise pointed out that international free trade has a crucial role in ushering in wealth to the world and in elevating the quality of people’s lives. Further he said, “A multilateral, rules-based free trade system has brought prosperity to the whole world in the 20th century.” He added that a major part of it took place in China, after Deng Xiaoping opened up the country.

“Opening up was a way to inject external pressure to stimulate reform domestically,” he said, adding that as a consequence, every country sought to climb higher on the value chain, with those on the highest end having to climb even faster.

In highlighting the necessity of nations to guarantee quality of life for their people, the environment must be taken cared of saying, “The global community needs to come together to address a number of challenges and protect our global commons.”

When asked for his opinion on the United States-China trade conflict, Mr. Heng articulated his hope that an agreement can be forged between the two giants because the stakes are very high and will surely impact the rest of the world.

Referring to how the trade tension, coupled with China’s rising wages, had started moving the supply chain into countries south of China, including Vietnam and Cambodia, Mr. Heng said: “There will be a reconfiguration of the supply chain, but I hope we can do it in a steady way.”

While trade is important, technological superiority and the governance model are also vital in bringing about a better quality of life for people, said Mr. Heng.

“But the strategic competition that will take place is one thing. It is important for us to ensure that it does not result in strategic conflict because that will be quite a major problem for all of us….I hope we can reach some understanding on that issue,” Mr. Heng concluded.