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Singapore's task not to choose sides, but to remain relevant to the world: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE'S "principled stand and neutrality" were some reasons why the city state was chosen for the upcoming summit between the US and North Korea in June, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

As a small country with an open economy, Singapore's task is not to choose sides between the various superpowers, but to ensure that it remains relevant to the world, he added.

He was speaking in Parliament on the first day of the debate on the President's Address.

The government, businesses and individuals must be alert to the forces impacting Singapore and navigate them carefully, he told Parliament.

"What's clear is that no one deals with Singapore for our domestic markets or resources alone. Instead, they leverage upon us as a platform to reach the region and the world," said Mr Chan.

"To remain effective and attractive, we must develop people with a deep understanding of the region and the world, so that we can create value when others do business with us."

For Singapore to secure its place in the world, individuals and businesses have to be equipped with global mindsets and global skill-sets, said Mr Chan.

"This must be our competitive advantage and we can do more," he noted.

A Singapore Talent Network will be created to better organise and expand Singapore's outreach overseas, in a collaboration by the Economic Development Board and associated agencies, he said.

Singapore must also have a diversity of talent - both local and global - to work together, cross-pollinate ideas and bring out the best in each other, he said.

The city state must also better connect to the world as its hinterland, gaining better access to resources and markets, he added.

This means doing business with more markets, negotiating new free trade agreements while upgrading existing ones and exploring new markets, he said.

Not only should Singapore go beyond the conventional dimensions of air, land and sea connectivity, but also ensure that it is connected to the world in the realms of data, finance, talent and technology, he said.

As the economy matures, Singapore must also venture out instead of simply attracting activities here in order to achieve sustained and quality economic growth, said Mr Chan.

Beyond looking at gross domestic product (GDP) as a benchmark, Singapore has to focus on gross national income (GNI) as well.

"Not just about giving Singaporeans the best opportunities here in Singapore, but also helping Singaporeans to seize the opportunities beyond Singapore," he said.

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