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Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong: Businesses in Asean should accept more competition

Janet Ong
Finance Editor
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at a business forum on the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore on November 12, 2018. (Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said businesses should be prepared to accept more competition in their home markets as they benefit from Asean integration, open and connected economies.

“The more integrated and open our markets are, and the more conducive our rules and business environments to foreign investment, the larger the pie will grow, and the more we will all benefit,” Lee said at the opening of the Asean Business and Investment Summit in Singapore on Monday (12 November).

Even as businesses expand abroad, they aren’t alway supportive when it comes to opening up their own domestic markets to foreign entries, and may lobby governments to impose regulations or keep industries closed to protect themselves, Lee said.

Lee was speaking at the event organised by the Asean Business Advisory Council ahead of the main meeting of the 33rd Asean Summit later this week. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations members and external partners, including the US and China, will meet from 13-15 November in Singapore.

Asean is the world’s sixth largest economy and is projected to become the fourth largest by 2030 after the US, Europe and China, he said. Last year, Asean attracted nearly US$140 billion of foreign direct investment.

“Asean has great potential, but fully realising it depends on whether we choose to become more integrated, and work resolutely towards this goal in a world where multilateralism is fraying under political pressures,” Lee said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to attend the Asean Summit. US Vice President Mike Pence will attend the meeting in place of President Donald Trump.

AEC Meeting

Separately, Asean economic ministers signed an agreement on Monday to facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions at the 17th ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council Meeting, on the sidelines of the main Summit.

Asean is the world’s fastest growing internet market, with 330 million internet users. By 2025, Asean’s internet economy is set to quadruple to US$200 billion from US$50 billion in 2017, with e-commerce expected to grow to US$88 billion.

Speaking during the meeting, Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said despite growing global uncertainties and trade tensions, Asean continues to be an engine of growth. Last year, Asean attracted nearly US$140 billion of foreign direct investment, he said.

The regional grouping will also be concluding the Asean Trade in Services Agreement that will broaden and deepened the integration of services sector with member states, and the Asean Comprehensive Investment Agreement to improve liberalisation and transparency in members’ investment regimes, he added.

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