17 May 2021
RSIS-WTO VIRTUAL PARLIAMENTARIAN WORKSHOP 2021
MONDAY, 17 MAY 2021
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore
Mr Benedict Cheong, Chief Executive, Temasek Foundation International
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO
Invited Members of Parliament, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon to all of you. Welcome to the eleventh RSIS-WTO Parliamentarian Workshop, which brings together parliamentarians from across the Asia-Pacific to deliberate on key international trade issues and challenges.
Before we begin, I would like to express my thanks to the Centre for Multilateralism Studies within RSIS, Temasek Foundation and the World Trade Organization for their generous support in making this event possible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is regrettable that we could not hold these discussions in person given current circumstances. However, we celebrate a highly respectable turnout in the history of these workshops, and the commitment shown by Singapore and its many partners in coming together to seek better understanding of and solutions to the myriad economic challenges of our times, despite the forces threatening to tear multilateral cooperation apart.
It is no secret that the rules-based multilateral trading system has come under strain. For the past few years, international trade has suffered under the weight of economic populism and heightened fears of economic insecurity among governments. This has sparked calls for decoupling, the reshoring of global value chains, and new economic orders that, at its worst, could balkanize the global economy into different blocs.
Meanwhile, the WTO faces numerous challenges. For one, its dispute settlement mechanism is paralyzed. For another, it has been difficult to conclude longstanding negotiations— such as on fisheries subsidies— and update the rulebook for 21st century trade issues such as digital trade.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added fuel to the fire by triggering stronger inward-looking policies and exacerbating geo-economic tensions.
Yet the pandemic has also spotlighted shared realities and struggles. Similarly, it has underscored the shared responsibilities that must be carried out for the collective development, security and prosperity of us all.
Though multilateral trade is not the sole vehicle for such shared growth, it is part of the answer. As one of many trading nations in the Asia-Pacific, Singapore has borne witness to the growth international trade and rules-based economic multilateralism has brought to this region. Critically, it has facilitated economic ties with the rest of the world, provided essential foundations that regional trade agreements can build upon, and increasingly enables businesses of all sizes to thrive.
As such, Singapore for its part is committed to defending the rules-based multilateral trading system, as well as supporting others in reaping its rewards and mitigating its flaws. This includes convening this workshop to build capacity and facilitate dialogue between like-minded partners and stakeholders, especially in such uncertain times.
I hope that this week’s workshop will be useful to your work as lawmakers by providing a few key takeaways on the global economy and WTO in the post-pandemic era. Namely, inspired discussions on how to better navigate and manage the complex interdependencies of our world, on top of a more nuanced understanding of both the known and uncharted economic landscapes unfolding before us.
As I close, allow me to extend my sincere thanks to our partners and speakers for assuring the success of this workshop. Many thanks as well to the participants who made time to be here today.
Last updated on 21/05/2021