The Centre for Multilateralism Studies (CMS), organised the Singapore Trade Policy Forum at Sheraton Towers Singapore on 21 and 22 October. With support from the governments of Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia, the forum brought together experts from government, business, and academia. The discussions focused on key trade policy issues, including determinants, impacts, and coherence with other policy sectors. Although global in scope, the forum engaged in a regional perspective.
Professor Ralf Emmers, Dean of RSIS, gave the welcome remarks highlighting how many countries, including Singapore, have benefitted greatly from trade, being the driver for both prosperity and development. The multilateral rules-based trading order has also played a significant role to support this growth.
The luncheon talk by Mr Luke Goh, Deputy Secretary (Trade), Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore, outlined challenges to trade arising from the rapidly expanding and intersecting areas of security, socio-political issues, and industry development. He highlighted security concerns as one of the major non-tariff barriers to trade.
The forum sessions deliberated on topics such as (i) the cost of economic nationalism; (ii) WTO reform; (iii) rules for the digital economy; (iv) trade and climate change; and (v) the globalisation trajectory.
Jo Tyndall, New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore, explained how trade and climate change have kept separate tracks in terms of governance, rules, etc., because of turf issues. She said that climate change is not simply an environmental issue but an economic one. Keeping climate change and trade in separate bubbles is not feasible, and that current policies are not yet aligned to deal with both together.
The forum concluded with the agreement that there is never a good time for a breakdown in multilateral cooperation. Global agendas require global collaboration and coordination. This holds true for 21st century trade issues, such as digital trade, as well as for making progress in climate change and other United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.