Singapore

S'pore must stay open to the world: Tharman

DPM says looking inwards is not an option

Singapore must stay open to the world amid heightened uncertainty globally and as technological disruptions threaten to upend a range of industries, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Speaking at the Singapore-France Innovation Forum yesterday, he noted that it is tempting for nations to question the value of remaining open to the world in such a context.

"This is not an option for Singapore," he said. "Like France, we remain committed to international cooperation and growing trade, investment, research and development, defence and educational relationships with other countries, so that we can tap each other's strengths to create a better future for our people."

In particular, the Republic and other advanced economies should address the widening innovation gap between firms at the frontier of knowledge, productivity and new products, and the rest of the economy, said Mr Tharman, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

GROWING GAPS

"Almost everywhere in the developed world, we have seen a weakening in the pace with which new ideas, new innovations are spread, from the frontier to the rest of our economies.

"These growing gaps in productivity have also been an important driver of wage inequalities in most developed countries."

But he added that both France and Singapore recognise this problem, and that cooperation between the two countries can enhance their national strategies to grow innovation in all its dimensions.

The forum, held at Biopolis and organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the French Embassy, was in conjunction with French President Francois Hollande's state visit to Singapore.

Ties between the two nations are set to receive an added boost when the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) comes into force.

As the first free trade agreement (FTA) concluded between the EU and an Asean nation, the EUSFTA is also a building block towards an eventual EU-Asean FTA, said Mr Tharman.

At the same time, 10 agreements were signed at the forum to further research collaboration between the two countries in areas such as digital engineering, energy access and electric vehicles.

Mr Hollande, who also spoke at the event, noted that there are more opportunities for both Singapore and France to further collaborate, such as in areas like healthcare and biomedical sciences, aerospace, smart cities and financial technology.

He added that the Asean chapter of France's Club Sante, an association of medical technology and biotech businesses, will be set up in Singapore as well.

Speaking in French, Mr Hollande told the forum that research or innovation can be done only as part of a network - and this is the reason it is important to foster partnerships and alliances, and to remain open even as big companies and countries look inwards.

"France and Singapore share the same priority for innovation... It is our ability to create; it is also our spirit of entrepreneurship (that) is going to give us a relative advantage in (a globalised world)."

FranceINNOVATIONTharman Shanmugaratnam