U.S. Companies Engage with Singaporean Government on Development of Digital Economy and Singapore’s 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship Year

(Singapore) – On August 20-21, a delegation of 22 leading U.S. companies participated in the US-ASEAN Business Council’s annual business mission to Singapore.  The delegation was one of the largest that the Council has led to Singapore since the Council's founding in 1984.  This year's business mission was framed within the context of the Government of Singapore’s (GOS) themes for its 2018 ASEAN Chairmanship – innovation and resilience.  The delegation was especially interested in how Singapore's focus on innovation and resilience overlap with Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative and the development of the digital economy.  Given Singapore's ASEAN Chairmanship role for 2018, the delegation also sought Singapore's perspective on the regional implications of innovation and resilience and its overlap with the digital economy on issues such as trade facilitation within ASEAN, deepening services integration and reducing impediments to investment, and deepening ties between ASEAN and its external partners.  Lastly, the delegation met with Ministers who are covering new portfolios after the most recent Cabinet shuffle, which took effect on May 1, 2018.

The delegation was received by senior Singaporean Government officials, including:

  • Minister for Trade and Industry, H.E. Chan Chun Sing;
  • Minister for Education, H.E. Ong Ye Kung;
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative, H.E. Vivian Balakrishnan; and
  • Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, H.E. K Shanmugam.

Over the course of mission, the delegation also met with Mr. Gabriel Lim, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Communications and Information; Mr. Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Manpower; Mrs. Tan Ching Yee, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance; Mr. Calvin Phua, Deputy Secretary (Hub Strategy) for the Ministry of Transportation; Mr. Chng Kai Fong, Managing Director at the Singapore Economic Development Board; Mr. Ng Yao Loong, Assistant Managing Director (Development & International) at the Monetary Authority of Singapore; and Chargé d’affaires, a.i., Ms. Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath.

Mr. Karl Cox, Chair of the Council’s Singapore Committee and Vice President of Global Public Affairs for Oracle; Mr. Alexander Feldman, President & CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council; and Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council; led the mission.

"Last year we discussed how Singapore was setting itself on a path to better reap the benefits of emerging global megatrends," said Council Singapore Committee Chair Mr. Cox.  "By putting the development of the digital economy front and center for its ASEAN Chairmanship year, Singapore has shown that it is clearly on this path.  Focusing on this issue for its ASEAN Chairmanship year shows that Singapore is also committed to playing a role in helping to shape regional best practices and norms with respect to the digital economy."

"Singapore has consistently been at the forefront of technological change.  One need only look at the country's Smart Nation initiative to see the degree to which it embraces such change," said Mr. Feldman. "The way that trendlines are moving, the 'digital economy' will simply be the 'economy' before long.  Singapore recognizes this and is focusing its ASEAN Chair year on innovation and resilience.  The composition of our Business Mission also reflects this reality, with the majority of companies directly involved in technology and the digital economy.  Singapore is setting the tone early on by emphasizing the importance of policies that encourage, rather than hinder, foreign investment and participation in the digital economy.  Ultimately, implementing policies that are conducive to business early on, with an understanding of the interconnections between new technologies and new approaches in the digital economy, will help accelerate the economic integration that is vital for the success of the ASEAN Economic Community."

“Equally integral to the success of this year’s business mission was the opportunity to meet some of the Ministers who are in charge of new portfolios after the May 2018 Cabinet shuffle,” said Amb. Michalak. “The Council has always valued how open the Government of Singapore has been to considering the private sector’s concerns when devising policy.  We look forward to continuing this mutually beneficial relationship with the upcoming Fourth Generation Leadership.  One of the main goals of this year’s mission was to make sure that the new Ministers knew that the U.S. private sector stands ready to offer its global experience and knowledge of global best practices on important topics such as the development of the digital economy, both domestically and in the broader ASEAN region.”

Companies participating in the mission included 3M, Adobe, Agoda, Airbnb, Amazon, Autodesk, Bechtel, Booz Allen Hamilton, Bower Group Asia, Citi, Gilead Sciences, HP Inc., Kimberly-Clark, Mattel, Philip Morris International, QUALCOMM Incorporated, Salesforce, S&P Global, TE Connectivity, UPS, and Visa Worldwide Pte. Limited.

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For more than 30 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's 150+ membership generates over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.