(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

SINGAPORE -The growth of the Asia-Pacific region hinges on three factors: stable Sino-US ties, Asean centrality and credibility, and forward-looking economies, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Friday (Sept 15).

But countries in this promising region must also play their part, he added.

They need to work together if they are to prosper, he said, a call that is especially pertinent as people are turning against globalisation and nationalistic feelings in Asia are at elevated levels.

Mr Teo was speaking at the opening of the Singapore Summit, a two-day forum attended by 500 foreign leaders, businessmen and others.

He said: “Territorial disputes are steeped in history, national pride and the competition for resources. But cooler heads and diplomacy must prevail if our region is to realise its potential.

“This is not the time to look inwards. Countries must work together to address transnational threats and also work on opportunities for growth and prosperity.”

Sino-US ties and Asean centrality

The first key to unlock prosperity in the region is stable ties between China and America, he said.

He cited the bilateral relationship as the most important one not just for both countries, but for the region and the world.

Sino-US collaboration is needed for areas such as North Korea, counter-terrorism, climate change and global trade, he said.

“The US has many preoccupations worldwide but it cannot afford to ignore Asia,” said Mr Teo.

He added that the US should engage in terms of security and economics, and people-to-people exchanges.

The second key is for Asean to be cohesive and focused on maintaining its centrality and credibility.

Mr Teo said that Asean’s 50th anniversary this year is a significant milestone in the region’s history, and highlighted lessons to be drawn from its founding principles.

Asean’s founding fathers “shared a vision of a region that could stand on its own feet and face common threats together in order to achieve stability and improve the livelihoods of its people”, he said.

They wanted to create an outward-looking organisation that would allow them to trade freely and openly, and attract investments from the world.

Asean’s success gives its countries a platform to amplify their voice on the international stage, he said.

“Asean has to continue its community-building efforts so that the fruits of integration translate into tangible benefits in the lives of our people,” said Mr Teo.

Singapore chairs Asean next year.

Innovative economies

Lastly, economies must be forward-looking and innovative.

“In Singapore, we continue to support the liberalisation of trade and investment, and regional free trade arrangements,” said Mr Teo.

These include the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pacts, both of which Singapore supports.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between Asean and six of its trading partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

This is “not because we support one country or another, but because we support an open environment that is conducive to trade and investment, and one which gives the best chance for shared prosperity and progress”, he said.

Singapore is also taking steps to drive research, innovation and enterprise, transform its industries, and become a Smart Nation to seek new high-quality growth, he added.

“For companies, the Asia-Pacific offers the opportunities for growth and expansion, particularly as Asia-Pacific economies become more integrated. There is much potential for you to tap on to develop new products and services for the region,” he said.

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