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Singapore must diversify and not overly rely on any market: Chan Chun Sing

EXPANDING Singapore's network of free trade agreements (FTAs) "ensures the diversification of our markets and supply chains, to not overly rely on any one particular market", said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing during the ministry's Committee of Supply on Monday.

Later that afternoon, responding to Workers' Party Member of Parliament (MP) Low Thia Khiang's question on the state of Singapore and Malaysia relations, Mr Chan said that although Singapore continues to look for "win-win projects" with its neighbour, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is aware that any disruption to Malaysia's economy will hit Singapore too.

The MTI has therefore been encouraging Singapore companies to consider Malaysia's economic and political trajectory, and to diversify their sources and supply chains, said Mr Chan. The approach of avoiding over-reliance applies regardless of whether the market in question is Malaysia or any other particular market, he added.

Earlier in his speech, on the topic of expanding Singapore's FTA networks, Mr Chan named the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership which entered into force last year and marked Singapore's first agreement with Canada and Mexico; the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and Investment Protection Agreement, recently consented to by the European Parliament; and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which the 16 partners hope to conclude this year.

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Over the weekend, Mr Chan had been in Siem Reap, Cambodia for the seventh RCEP Intersessional Ministerial Meeting. Responding to MP Liang Eng Hwa, Mr Chan said on Monday that the partners have reaffirmed their determination to do their best to conclude the RCEP this year. A 2019 workplan has been agreed, with intermediate targets set for each month, he added.

Amid the rise of protectionism and unilateral moves by some countries, many in South-east Asia and the rest of Asia see the need to conclude the RCEP not just for its economic benefits but also to send a positive message to the world about the value of greater integration, said Mr Chan.

With four RCEP partners - India, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia - set to have elections from now till the end of May, the partners are working on clearing as much of the technical issues as possible from now till June, he said. The August meeting in China will then be a critical milestone for the countries to make a political commitment to the agreement.