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Talent the main driver of Singapore's next phase of growth: Chan Chun Sing


TALENT will play an increasingly important part in directing Singapore's next phase of growth to become an innovation-driven economy, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Friday.

In his first public remarks since he assumed the post on Monday, Mr Chan highlighted the importance of improving the quality of the workforce, as trade associations, companies and the government implement the various Industry Transformation Maps - strategic plans tailored for industries to address specific issues.

"Beyond connectivity and a pro-business environment, another key criterion for our continued success is being open to talent," he told 150 government officials and business leaders at a lunch organised by the European Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (EuroCham) at the St Regis Hotel.

Maintaining a strong Singaporean core through programmes like SkillsFuture, which helps Singaporeans upgrade and reskill, go in tandem with remaining open to foreign talent, he said.

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"Foreign labour complements Singaporean workers and brings along relevant skills to create new industries and job opportunities," he said.

"This is crucial to our longer term competitiveness, and ensures that we stay relevant to a dynamic region that is fast evolving and growing."

Mr Chan also emphasised the importance of connectivity, as well as a pro-business environment.

The Lion City has implemented 22 free trade agreements with 33 trading partners to date, he said, and will continue to be an air and sea hub for passengers and goods, as well as work on new dimensions of connectivity such as data and finance.

"We see the world as our hinterland, and doing so has allowed us to transcend our physical constraints and avoid being circumscribed by geography," he said.

Singapore has also pursued pro-business policies like robust intellectual property protections, which provide certainty to businesses and fosters innovation, he added.

More than 10,000 EU companies are in Singapore today, making the trade bloc the nation's largest investor, he said. Some have cooperated with local companies, such as the Netherlands' Shell with local clean energy provider Sunseap to collaborate on solar projects.

Unlike other countries or regions which may be taking a more protectionist approach, both the EU and Singapore are "firm believers" in open trade.

He cited the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, a trade pact which would lower tariffs and other barriers to trade and enhance protection of intellectual property rights, among other things.

It is awaiting ratification but Mr Chan noted that the deal is "a pathfinder towards an eventual EU-Asean FTA and anchors the EU's engagement in the region".

Singapore is the Asean chair this year, and it aims to strengthen the relationship between both blocs, he said. Asean is the EU's third-largest trading partner outside Europe after the US and China, with Singapore accounting for about one-third of the EU's total trade with the region, he noted.

The lunch was to celebrate the Schuman Declaration made 68 years ago, which led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community - the foundation of the 28-member European Union and the world's largest trading bloc and its second-largest economy.