Business

Trade Minister urges US businessmen to back multilateral trade

The trade conflict between the US and China will not blow over quickly as it is driven by fundamental shifts in their domestic politics and economies, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing told the American business community yesterday.

He urged about 250 US and international business leaders to make a stand for a rules-based multilateral trading system and to continue investing in the region to set the pace for Washington, at the lunch discussion held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

Mr Chan spoke on the future of the US-Singapore relationship and the role of foreign investment and fielded questions from the American business community.

Like Mr Chan, most of the business leaders reckoned that the trade tensions were unlikely to vanish after the US mid-term elections in November or even after a change in leadership, because of fundamental shifts in both the US and China.

For the US, the shift was a domestic backlash against globalisation and politicians tackling the issue of how to better distribute its benefits, he said.

China has to grapple with the responsibilities expected of an economic superpower, he said.

"The two giants will determine the fate of not just their domestic economies and systems, but also the trajectory of the world," he said.

Singapore is responding to the trade conflict by working to boost its speed of innovation and diversifying its markets, said Mr Chan.

But he acknowledged that Singapore may not have felt the full impact of the trade conflict yet.

The worst impact of a sustained trade conflict would be the loss of confidence in investment and financial markets, he said.

To counter this, Singapore - together with like-minded countries and companies - will keep making a stand for the global multilateral rules-based system, he added.

He urged the business leaders to exercise their clout, as their choice of where to invest "will cumulatively build up a picture of what the US stands for in this region".

He said: "It is not just you following Washington. It is also where Washington follows you because of your individual decisions, which add up."

BUSINESS & FINANCE