International Business & Economy SM Teo Chee Hean: Covid-19 should encourage cooperation among countries

SM Teo Chee Hean: Covid-19 should encourage cooperation among countries

"Integration and trade are always far better than isolation and conflict," says Senior Minister

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Singapore — In the third of the National Broadcast series, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean expounded on the challenges of a changed and changing world because of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying unity and not division among countries is crucial.

Speaking on the theme, Resilience In A Changing External Environment, on Thursday (June 11), Mr Teo elaborated on the effects of the crisis on a global scale. The pandemic has disrupted the international system, he said. He gave a few examples of the changes post Covid-19, such as travelling abroad, the standards of public health and personal hygiene and business processes.

Mr Teo noted that global supply chains had been up-ended and social divisions have grown starker which fracture the social and political stability of countries. As a result, a wave of nativism and protectionism swept through the nations, where countries are acting unilaterally to protect their own short-term interests.

“International organisations like the World Health Organization are handicapped as they seek a coordinated global response,” he said. “These developments are threatening the international system and global order.”

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In a local context, Singaporeans grew up believing that globalisation and open markets are part of the natural order of things. However, “we can no longer assume that these are so”, Mr Teo said. The pandemic, an unexpected, stringent test, as he described it, called for a building of greater resilience within Singapore “as we prepare for this new, more uncertain world”.

He mentioned that there is still so much to do, from caring for the sick and protecting frontline workers to discovering effective treatments and vaccines. There is also a need to update, reform and strengthen the global trading system to reflect the new realities. “Integration and trade are always far better than isolation and conflict,” he said.

Some things remain unchanged

Amid the changes, certain aspects remain the same, according to Mr Teo. “Singapore will always be a small, multi-racial country surrounded by bigger neighbours and exposed to external forces beyond our control.”

With that, the need to promote close ties and good cooperation with neighbouring countries is essential. He illustrated how Singapore has continued to work closely with Malaysia, Indonesia and other Asean partners in tackling Covid-19 together.

“We are working with Malaysia during this outbreak on the cross-border flow of people and goods,” said Mr Teo. Face masks, test kits and ventilators were also donated as a gesture of solidarity. “We must try our best to resolve issues and achieve a win-win outcome while protecting Singapore’s interests,” he added.

Watch the full speech here.

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