Singapore Update: Notes from 2018 Singapore Business Mission Planning Call #1

Singapore Update | July 26, 2018
Authors: Riley Smith and Mianmian Fei
 
NOTES FROM 2018 SINGAPORE BUSINESS MISSION PLANNING CALL #1
 
 

On July 24, the Singapore Committee held the first planning call for the 2018 Singapore Business Mission, which will take place August 20-21. During the call Ms. Melissa A. Brown, Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore, briefed members on the current state of U.S.-Singapore relations, provided an update on the Government of Singapore's (GOS) economic priorities for 2018, and discussed Singapore's 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship year. Ms. Brown's official bio can be found here

The remainder of the call was dedicated to providing an update on the 2018 Singapore Business Mission. The logistics of the mission were reviewed, along with the proposed themes and the meeting targets. A PDF of the call notes can be found here. More information on the 2018 Singapore Business Mission, including a link to register, can be found here.

If you have any questions about the call or the 2018 Singapore Business Mission, please contact Riley Smith (rsmith@usasean.org) and Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org).

Notes from 2018 Singapore Business Mission Planning Call #1

Date and Time: Tuesday, July 24, 2018, at 8:30 AM EDT (Tuesday, July 24, 2018, at 8:30 PM Singapore time)

  • Briefing by Ms. Melissa A. Brown, Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs, U.S. Embassy in Singapore
    • Update on U.S.-Singapore relations:
      • The strategic partnership between the United States and Singapore is strong and expanding
      • Three areas that the U.S. Embassy in Singapore, especially the Economic and Political Section, focuses on are cyber, counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism
        • Relationship between the United States and Singapore is strong enough that they can cooperate on bilateral issues, regional issues, and trans-national issues like cyber and counter-terrorism
      • 2018 has been a busy year for Singapore
        • Singapore Air Show (February 6-11)
          • Included Both civilian and defense sales activity
          • United States and Singapore expanded cooperation in safety
            • Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed revisions to Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement – Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness (BASA-IPA)
        • Shangri-La Dialogue (June 1-3)
          • Attended by the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis
          • Secretary Mattis laid out his vision for the Indo-Pacific
      • US-DPRK Singapore Summit (June 12)    
        • Singapore was chosen because of its security, privacy, and parity
          • Parity – Singapore maintains diplomatic relations with DPRK and United States, so could deal with protocol issues for both sides
        • The Embassy focused more on the logistics, security and press components
      • U.S.-Singapore economic relations
        • Ever since United States pulled out of TPP, Singapore continued to call for U.S. strategic economic engagement, while recognizing the significant contribution U.S. businesses make to Singapore economy
        • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will deliver remarks at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Washington D.C. on July 30
          • Expect new initiatives on energy, infrastructure and digital economy to be announced
          • Effort to show that the region does matter and there is a plan moving forward
    • Update on GOS economic priorities for 2018
      • Big news was announcement of Cabinet shuffle in April
        • Especially Minister Chan Chun Sing being appointed Minister of Trade and Industry
        • The former Minister of Trade and Industry S Iswaran, who was appointed Minister of Communications and Information, is playing the role of senior caretaker
        • Minister Chan is very energic, a quicker learner, frank and honest
      • GOS focused on trying to ensure economic prosperity across the board
        • Sees innovation as key to this
      • Smart Nation initiative focused squarely on cyber
        • Recent cyberattack on SingHealth patient records database
          • More than 1.5 million health records compromised
          • GOS reacted by requiring all public health providers to be cut off from the Internet
          • The very serious reactions show that the government tries to position themselves as a leader within ASEAN on cyber issues
        • Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW) (September 18-20).
        • Singapore Joint Cyber Security Working Group (JCSWG) created by the U.S. Embassy brings together the U.S. government, the Singapore Cyber Security Agency (CSA) and private sector
          • Based on model of the Philippines JCSWG created by the U.S. Embassy in Manila
          • Singapore JCSWG focusing on capability and capacity building and policy development
          • Singapore JCSWG gives US companies a platform to present concerns and opportunities
      • Trade policy:
        • Singapore pushing for swift ratification of European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA)
          • Wants EUSFT to come into force by 2019 before European Commission’s mandate expires
        • On July 19, Singapore became the third country to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
        • Fact that the trade balance between Singapore and the United States favors the U.S. has played well for Singapore so far
        • Singapore’s three-fold concerns about U.S. trade actions
          • Direct impacts
          • Impacts on the global economy
            • Concerned about prolonged dip in trade flows
          • Impact on the U.S.-China relationship
            • Singapore concerned about being able to balance relations between two countries
        • Another big concern is the revision to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA)
          • Singapore views both as bellwether for how United States treats close friends
          • Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam visited the D.C. last week to meet with Cabinet members and members of Congress
          • Singapore is a bit late to the game because the legislation has already moved ahead
            • Instead, it will be more a matter of implementation
          • GOS Concerned that Singapore, as a strategic partner, may be open to more scrutiny under FIRRMA
            • This primarily would affect sovereign wealth fund (Temasek)
    • Update Singapore's 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship year:
      • Theme of innovation focused on Smart Nation initiative and Smart Cities Network
        • Singapore launched ASEAN Smart Cities Network recently
          • One of first major announcements was IBM and Wiley & Sons signed Letter of Intent with Banyuwangi City, Indonesia, to transform it into a Smart City
      • Theme of resilience focused on initiatives on regional information sharing in terms of cyber security and counter-terrorism
    • Upcoming events
      • Visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Singapore (August 3-4)
        • He will attend East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting
        • He will also hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Lee and Foreign Minister Balakrishnan
      • ASEAN Economic Minsters’ Meeting (September)
        • U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert E. Lighthizer and Deputy USTR Jeffrey Gerrish will lead the U.S. delegation
      • Potential visit of the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (October).
      • Expect President Donald Trump to attend the U.S.-ASEAN Summit (November).
  • Q&A with Ms. Melissa Brown
    • Question
      • With assistance from the U.S. Embassy, Singapore recently held a regional conference on national preparedness concerning a number of security threats 
        • Was such an ad hoc cooperative regional event productive?
        • Is that format something we can use in other areas such as cybersecurity, data protection, environmental safety or data safety in this region?
        • What can we do to continue to encourage Singapore to play an active role in regional cooperation?
    • Answer:
      • The United States and Singapore established a partnership in 2012 creating the Third Country Training Program (TCTP)
        • GOS Ministry of Foreign Affairs and U.S. Department of State jointly conduct capability-building courses/workshops for ASEAN countries and Timor-Leste
          • 47 courses conducted since 2012.
          • Usually week-long program for mid- to senior-level policy makers from the various Southeast Asian countries
          • Topics range from cybersecurity to trade and intellectual property rights
          • Either Singapore or the United States leads the program, depending on which makes more sense for the topic
          • TCTP has already trained more than 1000 people
      • USG and GOS come together once a year to determine priorities for TCTP
        • TCTP enables GOS to take more of a leadership role on issues that have regional breadth
          • United States can support GOS if it feels like it is getting too far ahead of its ASEAN peers
      • USG interested in seeing how to better integrate U.S. companies into the coursework, so they have opportunity to contribute more
        • Will look at upcoming courses and follow up with Council to figure out how to best incorporate U.S. private sector interests into the courses
        • It would be beneficial for the policy makers to hear from people outside the government
    • Question:
      • In addition to Minister Chan, have you had a chance to see any of the other Ministers in their new roles, such as Minister Iswaran (new Minister for Communications and Information)?
      • Have the new Ministers reached out to the U.S. Embassy yet?
    • Answer:
      • We are going to see Minister Iswaran soon, so I cannot comment too much on that
        • Have heard that the Ministry for Communications and Information is taking the economic perspective more into account since he was appointed Minister
          • He is bringing with him what he learned from his time as Minister for Trade and Industry
          • We have talked with some other U.S. company representatives about targeting some of his mid-level staff to get them to understand more the contributions of the U.S. private sector
          • We know Minister Iswaran understands the contribution of U.S. private sector, but not sure some of his staff do
      •  Another thing about Minister Chan is he has accompanied PM Lee on three visits in the last two years to China
        • U.S. Embassy is encouraging him to visit the U.S. because he did not have much exposure to the U.S. in his last Cabinet position
        • He accompanied PM Lee on one of his trips to the United States, but his recent trips, when he was tested to be the 4G frontrunner, have been all these trips to China
    • Comment (Alex Feldman):
      • The Council has an invitation out to Minister Chan for him to visit Washington, but we have not heard anything in response yet
      • Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States and I had discussed this, and he thought it is a good idea to ask Minister Chan to come on his own to the United States
      • The Council will follow up on the invite
    • Comment (Ms. Brown):
      • When we met with Minister Chan we mentioned the Council’s upcoming Business Mission to him and thanked him for being willing to meet with your delegation
      • He seemed to look forward to it
    • Comment (Alex Feldman):
      • We are excited we have him confirmed along with Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung
      • Both Minister Chan and Minister Ong are expected to take high-level positions in the Fourth Generation Leadership
    • Question:
      • What do you think with be the impact of the SingHeath cyberattack with respect to the private sector working with GOS?
    • Answer:
      • We have seen breaches like this in the past but not on this scale.
      • MOH implemented measures to temporarily delink public healthcare clusters from the internet
      • Aside from that it is still too early to tell
      • U.S. Embassy is in close contact with the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) to learn more about what had happened and offer assistance
  • Brief Remarks by Singapore Committee Chair (Karl Cox, Oracle)
    • Will be my third time going with the group on the Singapore mission and I am looking forward to another successful trip
    • One key ingredient to having a successful mission is to have one or two concrete follow-up items to each meeting
      • Will ensure that the discussion and engagement continue after the meeting
  • Update on 2018 Singapore Business
    • Mission Logistics
      • Mission dates: Monday, August 20-Tuesday, August 21
        • If traveling to Singapore
          • Recommend arriving by afternoon or early evening of Sunday, August 19
          • Plan to leave by evening of Tuesday, August 21
        • Will hold a pre-mission briefing before start of mission
          • Last two years have held pre-mission briefing on morning of first day of mission
          • We can hold the pre-mission briefing the evening before start of mission, if delegates prefer
      • Mission hotel:
        • Our Singapore office is currently looking at options
        • Will arrange for block of rooms at a reduced rate for mission delegates
        • Will include hotel booking information in Business Mission invitation when we have decided upon a hotel
      • Price:
        • US$3,500 if register before COB August 6 (two weeks away)
        • US$4,000 if register after COB August 6
        • There is an additional $750 fee for the registration of each additional representative beyond the first two
        • To get meeting confirmations, we have to share our delegation list with the Singapore Government
          • The larger the delegation
            • The faster we can get confirmations
            • The higher level the meetings will be
          • Once you initiate your registration, you can cancel it for a full refund by COB August 6
          • If you are interested in joining the mission, we recommend you initiate registration, so
            • We can include you on the delegation list
            • We can get the higher-level meetings that will be more beneficial to you
          • If by August 6 we have not confirmed the meetings that you are interested in, you can cancel your registration for a full refund  
    • Mission Themes
      • Wanted to frame mission themes in context of the key economic themes for Singapore’s 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship
        • Innovation and the digital economy;
        • Facilitating seamless trade and movement of goods within ASEAN;
        • Deepening services integration and reducing impediments to investment;
        • Cultivating a conducive regulatory environment, especially with regard to energy efficiency and renewable energy; and
        • Deepening ties between ASEAN and its external partners
      • We are especially interested where these themes overlap with Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative and the Future Economy Council
      • And we want to emphasize how U.S. companies can help Singapore achieve benchmarks and deliverables related to these key themes and initiatives
      • We propose that the 2018 Singapore Business Mission focus on:
        • Engaging Ministers in new roles after May 2018 Cabinet reshuffle
        • Promoting innovation and expanding access to and enabling use of new technologies and business models in priority future economy and Smart Nation sectors
          • Such as digital economy, fintech, transportation, and healthcare
        • Increasing engagement with Singapore Government and educational institutions to support human capital development and meet the skills needs for priority future economy and Smart Nation sectors
        • Engaging the Singapore Government to help it achieve Singapore’s 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship goals
      • Comments/questions on overarching themes?
        • Question:
          • Singapore has joined the inclusive framework for the global implementation of the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project
          • Can we include a point on ensuring that corporate tax reform, like what BEPS implementation will entail, is done in a way that still encourages inward investment?
        • Answer:
          • We certainly can.
          • In the four current themes, we focus on making sure GOS gets the regulatory environment right for enabling use of new technologies and business models
          • It would be good to include a point on encouraging more FDI that focuses on corporate taxation regime
        • Comment:
          • Want to emphasize that member companies should highlight the CSR they are doing in terms of human capacity and capability building
          • Will help emphasize the benefits of integrating and learning from foreign professional workers
        • Comment:
          • Would fall under the third overarching theme about how to improve human capital development
            • I.e., increase U.S. companies as private sectors’ access to the workers who have the skills, both technical and management skills
          • This can be highlighted in the corporate social responsibility information you provide when registering for the mission
      • Keeping these overarching themes in mind, we propose focusing on the following issues:
        • Under promoting innovation and expanding access to/enabling use of new technologies and business models in priority future economy and Smart Nation sectors
          • Improving the utilization of data (especially storage and cross-border sharing) to support development of the digital economy
          • Gaining clarification on:
            • How Cybersecurity Act 2018 will be implemented
            • Review of the Personal Data Protection Act
            • How GST on digital services imports will be implemented
            • Priority industries for regulatory sandbox expansion
        • Under increasing engagement with Singapore Government and educational institutions to support human capital development and meet the skills needs for priority future economy and Smart Nation sectors
          • Expand private sector’s access to skilled labor and management
            • i.e. advocate for increased flexibility in immigration policies so companies can meet workforce needs
          • Promote co-development of educational and training programs
          • Support Singapore Government initiatives promoting digital capabilities in data and supply management for SMEs
        • Under engaging Singapore Government to help it achieve Singapore’s 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship goals
          • Expand opportunities for stakeholder input in drafting and implementation of ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce
          • Promote stakeholder engagement in development of regional norms and standards for cybersecurity
  • Meeting Targets
    • Confirmed Meetings
      • Ministry of Trade and Industry: CHAN Chun Sing, new Minister for Trade and Industry
        • The member of Fourth Generation (4G) leadership most favored to be a future Prime Minister one day
      • Ministry of Education: ONG Ye Kung, Minister for Education
        • Portfolio expanded to all of education under recent Cabinet reshuffle
      • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Smart Nation initiative: Dr. Vivian BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative (confirmed after call)
      • Economic Development Board: CHNG Kai Fong, Managing Director
        • Relatively new; took position in October 2017
    • Awaiting Confirmation
      • Ministry of Communications and Information
        • With representatives from IMDA, GovTech (discuss Digital Government Blueprint), Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), and the Cyber Security Agency (CSA)
      • Ministry of Finance (second minster of finance)
      • Ministry of Transport
        • With representatives from Land Transport Authority
      • Ministry of Manpower
      • Monetary Authority of Singapore
      • Energy Market Authority
      • Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
    • Are member companies interested in:
      • Ministry of National Development?
        • Met with MND Minister Lawrence Wong last year in his capacity as Second Minister for Finance
        • At meeting he was open to discussing MOF and MND issues
        • Possibility we can address issues for those two ministries in same meeting
  • Other Engagements during Business Mission
    • Lunch meetings
      • In past years, have used lunches to get insight from private sector in Singapore
        • Last year, we received briefings on different types of disruptive technologies and for macroeconomic outlook for Singapore over lunch
      • Would member companies be interested in meeting with some of the agencies over lunch this year?
        • For example, a lunch with GovTech and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office
  • Questions
    • Question:
      • Do these lunch meetings take place during the business mission?
    • Answer:
      • Yes
      • We usually travel to the Ministries in the morning and afternoon, and we will have a break for lunch