Asia can take lead in globalisation in a more uncertain world: DPM Gan

Asia can take lead in globalisation in a more uncertain world: DPM Gan

SINGAPORE – Asia has benefited from globalisation over the decades, but now has to find ways to tweak the traditional model of globalisation so that it can take the lead in a more uncertain world, said Deputy Prime Minister Gan Kim Yong on May 24.

DPM Gan was speaking at the 29th Nikkei Forum on the Future of Asia held in Tokyo during his first overseas trip since he was sworn in as DPM on May 15.

He added that regional countries and China have to devise their own ways of cooperating and co-existing, calling Taiwan “one of the most sensitive issues in US-China relations, and one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the region”.

“Any clash in the Taiwan Strait will have dire consequences not just for the parties involved, but the entire world,” he said.

He added: “Fundamentally, all of us want to have a good working relationship with China. China is a geostrategic reality. It is the largest trading partner for most Asian nations. China’s involvement is also necessary if we are to have any hope of dealing effectively with global challenges such as climate change.

“Therefore, it is in our interest to ensure that China is an active part of the regional and global architecture. An isolated or excluded China is not good for anyone.”

Besides the intensifying geopolitical contestation, especially between US and China, other geopolitical conflicts also create uncertainties in the global landscape, such as the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Red Sea attacks by the Houthis and tensions in North-east Asia as North Korea steps up its provocations, DPM Gan noted.

The global economy is also restructuring at a pace and scale not seen since the end of the Cold War, he said, adding that measures like sanctions and investment restrictions have become more common.

Climate change also poses a global existential crisis, he said, as traditional carbon-based economies need to transition to low or zero-carbon ones, which will affect workers.

Against this backdrop of volatility and uncertainty, Asia can play a leadership role, DPM Gan said.

He noted that the current bedrock of the rules-based multilateral trading order is the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is based on strong collective commitment, which might be increasingly hard to achieve.

“We must also embark on agile partnerships that allow like-minded members to move ahead on important issues, while leaving the door open for others to join when they are ready,” he said.

For instance, the WTO’s joint statement initiative on e-commerce, which aims to establish the first set of global baseline rules on digital trade, has 90 members but is open to others to join in the future. Singapore is the co-convenor with Japan on this initiative.

Asian countries also have to pursue growth dynamically, particularly in the digital and green economies, which have enormous growth opportunities in the region, DPM Gan said.

“For the digital economy to flourish, there must be mutual trust and confidence in the exchange and use of data,” he noted. He added that the green economy also requires large investments that individual countries cannot afford on their own.

Ultimately, Asia must also pursue a model of development that is inclusive, investing in education and ensuring that globalisation’s benefits are enjoyed by all, he said.

During a question and answer segment, DPM Gan commented on Singapore’s new prime minister, Mr Lawrence Wong, calling his leadership style “consultative” and also “decisive”.

He said the new PM will evolve his own leadership style over time but that his work in the last few years has given a glimpse into what he is like as a leader. For instance, he led a nationwide consultation called Forward Singapore, a dialogue where he wanted to engage Singaporeans to understand their concerns and aspirations.

“This is the way forward, and reflects his consultative approach to leadership and governance,” DPM Gan said.

“At the same time. PM Wong is also a decisive leader. You would have observed how he led a task force in managing Covid-19. When it came to difficult decisions, he would make a decision and move ahead. I think this decisiveness as well as a very consultative approach are likely to shape his leadership style going forward,” he added.

In response to a question on whether the new leader heralds a new policy direction, DPM Gan said: “This change... signifies continuity, stability, as well as renewal.”

He noted that there is continuity because many of the members in the Cabinet have remained unchanged, but that there is also renewal because a new team of leaders is taking over.

“So I would not expect major changes to government policies and our approach to international relationships. But the world is changing and therefore we will need to continue to renew our approaches, our consideration of policies, so that we are able to catch up with the changes in the world,” he said.

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