15 May 2017
15 May 2017 | 9 am
Pan Pacific Singapore
Madam Halimah Yacob, Speaker, Singapore Parliament
Members of Parliament, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour to address the 8th RSIS-WTO Parliamentarian Workshop. It brings together members of Parliament from across the region, to deliberate key issues and challenges on international trade. I would also like to acknowledge the generous support of Temasek Foundation International and WTO for making this event possible.
As we are all aware, the global economy is still stuck in a period of slow growth. The WTO reported that the world merchandise trade last year expanded by only 1.3 per cent. According to the World Bank, the reasons for such a small increase include the global economic slowdown and a collapse in commodity prices.
The world economy is also under the threat of political uncertainties. A glaring example is the growing protectionist pressure in some countries which blame international trade as the major cause of unemployment and unequal distribution of wealth. Due to a changing political climate, the WTO adjusted down this year’s trade growth forecast to 1.8 per cent. The shift away from globalisation could jeopardize efforts to build stronger multilateral institutions and a more connected world.
Despite formidable challenges ahead, several achievements to foster an open system have been witnessed at the WTO. It is heartening to note that the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) entered into force when more than 110 members ratified the agreement. TFA was one of the successes of the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013. Another accomplishment is the decision to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) made at the Tenth Ministerial Conference Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2015. ITA aims to eliminate tariffs on 201 additional IT products valued at US$1.3 trillion annually.
In Southeast Asia, this year marks the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and the member states continue to show their strong commitment towards establishing an integrated economy. It is laudable that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which was established in December 2015, is making progress towards a seamless and connected region. Progress has been made in trade liberalization. The ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) has successfully achieved a freer flow of goods in the region by lowering trade barriers and deepening economic linkages between member states.
Next year, Singapore will chair ASEAN. With its commitment to international trade, Singapore will advance the regional integration project and enhance ties with ASEAN’s trading partners to further pursue trade liberalisation and deepen integration.
Excellencies, Respected Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Against the backdrop of the rising protectionism, we must double our efforts in removing obstacles to cross-border trade. International trade must not be viewed as the cause of economic grievances such as job losses and inequality. Instead, it should be regarded as part of the solution to economic difficulties. As economies are now intertwined in the global production networks, turning our backs against globalisation would hurt us all. Embracing international trade brings opportunities for mutual gains, enabling all countries to benefit from an open system.
Hence, I strongly believe that this Workshop will help us to prioritise and strategise our efforts to further elevate our trade commitments and relations among our countries.
As I close, let me again extend my sincere appreciation to all of you participating in this workshop.
Last updated on 07/05/2019