Singapore

US, China must avoid ‘narrow path to acrimony’: Ng Eng Hen

As trade war escalates, Singapore Defence Minister urges superpowers to avoid 'narrow path to acrimony'

The US, China and the world need to be careful to avoid rejigging the new global system on a purely transactional basis, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday, hours after US President Donald Trump slapped fresh tariffs on US$200 billion (S$274 billion) of Chinese goods.

"That narrow path leads to acrimony and myopia and ultimately grief," Dr Ng told the US business community in Singapore at an event held by the American Chamber of Commerce.

He called for a global order underpinned by a unifying vision that brings people and countries together and that perpetuates the same virtuous conditions of growing trade, reducing poverty and raising standards of living.

"It is quite clear that the US and China will play key roles in the coming decades to shape globalisation for the world. How both sides navigate the bilateral relationship, and how the rest of the world responds to it, will significantly affect the global order to come," he said.

Dr Ng also made the case that "wheeling and dealing", whether in commerce or international relations, should be underpinned by some sort of moral code.

America's moral authority and unifying vision for a post-World War II world enabled the region and the world to accept its leadership, and also explained its extraordinary influence in Asia after WWII, he said.

Dr Ng outlined how the US' unifying vision benefited the world, the region and the individual, such as how it expanded trade and finance and lifted people out of poverty.

But now, the geopolitical order is changing.

Said Dr Ng: "We have to accept that new rules will be written as power configurations alter. Nonetheless, to ensure continued stability and progress for all countries, we will have to work to ensure these new rules for Globalisation 2.0, whether in trade, finance or security, will be open, transparent and accountable."

In the question-and-answer session, Dr Ng was asked how Singapore can position itself amid this shift in geopolitical dynamics.

We are not here to teach, we are not here to pretend we are larger than we are. Whether we evolve a better system depends on the US and China primarily, the (world’s) two largest economies. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the American Chamber of Commerce yesterday

He said: "We are not here to teach, we are not here to pretend we are larger than we are. Whether we evolve a better system depends on the US and China primarily, the (world's) two largest economies.

"You've heard of the saying that the weak suffer what they must. It has always been the big powers that decide the rules. We hope they do it in enlightened self-interest."

WORLD