The rise of Asian economies over the past 40 years has increased living standards and prospects of millions, if not billions, of individuals across the region and drawn attention from the world over. Singapore, as an economic stronghold since the beginning of the wave of Asian economic growth, and China, hailed to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy and an Asian economic powerhouse, will both play crucial roles in shaping the future of free trade in the region. Yet, increasing uncertainty in global trade and the U.S.-China trade war are casting long shadows on the future prospects of free trade in Asia-Pacific.
Dr. Wang Huiyao, President of CCG, opened the roundtable discussion by introducing Mr. Chee Hong Tat and all participants in attendance. Setting the topic in context, Dr. Wang Huiyao noted that Asia is the fastest growing region in the world, and Singapore as a nation has set a shining example of economic prowess for Asian-Pacific nations. He continued to comment that in the current global economic circumstances, it is necessary to have a diverse range of perspectives from experts of all walks of life to better reach consensus in trade disputes and to reform and support free trade systems. CCG, by offering a platform for discussion between relevant figures on these crucial issues, works to foster greater cooperation and understanding for mutual economic growth in Asia-Pacific.
Mr. Chee Hong Tat began his speech by reviewing the 30 years of Sino-Singaporean diplomatic relations, especially the intensification of the relationship in recent decades with regular exchanges held between both nations’ leaders. On the trade front, Minister Chee stated the Sino-Singaporean strategic project recently agreed in Chongqing is representative of the economic, financial and e-commerce cooperation between the two nations, as well as being included within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Sun Jie, CCG Senior Fellow, former Director of Fund Management at China Securities Regulatory Commission and former Chairman of Asset Management Association of China, agreed with Minister Chee that Singapore is a global leader in trade and he hoped that China and Singapore strengthen learning and cooperation, maintain mutual trust and deepen understanding. On the trade war, Mr. Sun pointed out that if the Trump government imposed another $300 billion of punitive tariffs on China, it would damage the U.S. economy, raise consumer prices, and may trigger inflation, and even affect Trump's re-election chances. He said that the Trump Administration's move has damaged the interests of both China and the United States, and that economic tensions are harmful and not self-serving for either party.
During the discussion, Harvey Dzodin, CCG Nonresident Senior Fellow, China Daily Columnist and former Vice President of ABC Television, stated he also believes that the prospects for economic and trade cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region are extremely positive. On the future development of multilateral cooperation in WTO, Mr. Dzodin said that Singapore's successful experience is worth learning from and proposed Minister Chee encourage more member countries to support WTO reform.
CCG Senior Fellow and former President of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Commerce, Huo Jianguo, commented that the region offers immense opportunities, however, at present some view China as an obstacle, therefore China must continue its reform and opening-up in order to best take advantage of the opportunities and play a bigger role in Asia-Pacific. Mr. Huo argued that the U.S. shouldn’t seek to dominate the region and that whilst the ASEAN “10+1” and “10+3” models are relatively easy to achieve, “10+6” including the U.S. is too complex and difficult to be realized.
Xu Hongcai, CCG Nonresident Senior Fellow and deputy Director of Economic Policy Commission, China Association of Policy Science, commented that the Sino-U.S. trade war is impacting industrial and supply chains in the region and that Singapore, as a regional economic leader, has an important role to play in current circumstances. Mr. Xu put forward suggestions for greater cooperation between China and Singapore. In the financial sector, especially asset management and the internationalization of the RMB, China could seek to closer cooperation with the global and regional financial hub. For joint investment, Mr. Xu put forward the recently established Hainan Free Trade Port as an ideal opportunity to explore cooperation. Mr. Xu also suggested areas for experience-sharing such as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area learning from Singapore in the development of its talent training and industrial innovation systems, as well as China looking to the Singaporean experience in the management of state assets and corporate governance.