Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing: Countries need to adjust, since US-China trade war may take long to resolve

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Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that he believes that the US-China trade war most likely will not be resolved quickly, since underlying foundational issues, rather than mere leadership, is involved.

Therefore, he said, that it will have to be economies worldwide who will need to make adjustments.

Mr. Chan made these remarks at the American Chamber of Commerce’s Balestier Series on Tuesday, August 14. Government leaders and prominent businessmen are asked to come and speak on commercial and economic issues in this series.

At one point, the Trade Minister asked whether the audience believed that the US-China trade war would end after the US midterm elections in November, or perhaps after the current president ends his term, or if they thought the trade would last longer.

Many in the audience of around 250 business leaders from America and other countries said they believed the trade war would be protracted.

“You all believe that this is in for the long haul, and I don’t disagree with you. We all will hope for the best, but I think there is something more fundamental going on,” Mr. Chan said.

He said that global economies have to be the ones who adjust to the situation.

The Trade Minister asked, “The question for every country who participate in the globalization process is, do you have the domestic capacity and will to help the constituents within the country to make those necessary adjustments?” Adjustments that include allocating resources from groups that had received advantages due to globalization to those who didn’t.

He also emphasized the importance of the part South East Asia plays with regards to US’ interests. “If you look at the global geopolitical chessboard, the way to connect (both regions) is South-east Asia. That’s the lynchpin, it has been so for a long time… So South-east Asia (has been and) will be of critical importance to the US in the past and in the coming decades.”

The US has just announced an investment of US$113 million (S$154 billion) in initiatives involving energy and infrastructure, as well as new technology, in Asia. In addition to this, the US also announced a US$300 million infusion of funds for the purpose of security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Mr. Chan encouraged the US businessmen in the meeting to also invest in Asia. “Your choice of where you put your investment, your choice of where you make those strategic moves for your company, will cumulatively build up a picture of what the US stands for in this region… The choice you will make individually will collectively inform Washington where their priorities will be.”

Concerning Singapore’s prioritizing of free trade, Mr. Chan had this to say. “For Singapore, we have to be consistent because we have no other choices… We are just entirely focused on being part of the global trading system. Our survival depends on us transcending our geographical size and location.”

He also focused on the importance of Singapore’s connection to global economies in terms of technology, talent, finance and data.