S'pore & China committed to strengthening connectivity to reduce economic impact of Covid-19: Heng Swee Keat

Heng said that the economic outlook for Asia "remains bright" despite the bleak picture painted by the pandemic.

Julia Yeo | September 15, 2020, 06:43 PM

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat reiterated the need for Singapore to "strengthen connectivity" in its regional space, and cooperate with other countries to tide through the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a keynote address to participants at the FutureChina Global Forum 2020 organised by Business China, Heng spoke about how to make Asia a vibrant and conducive region for businesses to thrive and create better jobs for people.

He also reiterated the bilateral commitment between Singapore and China to promote regional cooperation, as 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations.

Countries need to cooperate and make adjustments for globalisation to work

Mentioning the uncertainties of the current global order and economy, he spoke about how some advanced economies may be feeling domestic pressure to "turn inwards" as globalisation is in retreat.

The current pandemic has also slapped the global economy with a major demand and supply shock, rattling businesses and placing jobs on the line, and painting an uncertain post-Covid future for the world.

Despite the bleak situation, Heng said the outlook for Asia "remains bright", thanks to the region's economic fundamentals and necessary reforms made after two major financial crises.

The outbreak of the disease in China was also swiftly dealt with, Heng said, which resulted in the resumption of Chinese economic growth in the previous quarter, becoming the only major economy expected to see growth in 2020.

Southeast Asia is developing to become an integral part of China's international trade with Asean as China's top trading partner for the first time in 2020.

With that, Heng emphasised the need for countries to signal their commitment to multilateralism, and to free and open trade, to build a more vibrant and conducive region for businesses and jobseekers in Asia.

Reiterated commitment with China to strengthen diplomatic relations

Heng mentioned the visit to Singapore by China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi in August, where he called on Heng, as well as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and was hosted to meals by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.

PM Lee and Yang expressed appreciation for the mutual support between both countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, and welcomed the good progress in bilateral cooperation despite the public health crisis.

Heng, who has been in close contact with regional counterparts via video conferences and phone calls, reiterated in his keynote address that Singapore will continue to promote regional cooperation to deepen its bilateral relationships.

While 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Singapore's diplomatic relations with China, Heng mentioned that Southeast Asia's ties with China "go way back" over a thousand years ago.

"More than a thousand years ago, there was already a vibrant trading network between China and Southeast Asia, and between our region and the world, as shown by the discovery of a ninth-century shipwreck in the Java Sea, containing Tang Dynasty ceramics bound for the Middle East," Heng explained.

"This trading network and the bonds of our people have been resilient, ebbing and flowing over the last ten centuries."

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Top screenshot via Prime Minister's Office/YouTube