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Singapore’s FTAs are standby if global trade talks fail: MM Lee

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia | 05 September 2006

Singapore’s FTAs are standby if global trade talks fail: MM Lee

SINGAPORE: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has explained that Singapore’s free trade agreements with the countries it has sealed with so far are a stand by if the Doha round of multilateral talks does not succeed.

The FTAs are all part of thinking about the future for Singapore.

Mr Lee was speaking at the concluding session of the Forbes CEO conference in Singapore.

The Forbes CEOs session with Mr Lee covered many current concerns of the corporate, such as the war on terror, the North Korean and Iran nuclear crises and relations between Taiwan and mainland China.

The chief executives attending the Forbes conference in Singapore also got Mr Lee to comment on the important role the United States can continue play in the Asia Pacific region.

"Just remain here, maintain your presence, that establishes a kind of international rules of law apply. If there were no US presence in the region, I think Southeast Asia may have Balkanised. Because there was this presence, you allowed east asia to develop, you had the four dragons and after that the four tigers- Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. That would not have happened had you packed up and gone away," said Mr Lee.

On the economic front, Mr Lee emphasised that ASEAN can’t compete with China, Japan and India.

To play a supplementary role to these giants, ASEAN must integrate further.

"We’ve got to start thinking about the future and not retrace our steps in the past. Yesterday was history, what we decide tomorrow is going to make history, so we start thinking about tomorrow. We have told our ASEAN neighbours that unless we combine, we are not going to make the kind of impact that together we can. With China’s rise and India’s emergence, the message has sunk in and is going to come about, because there is no choice. The Indonesians have always thought that with 200 million they don’t need us, no need for the rest of ASEAN. Now they know they need us and so its going to come together," said Mr Lee.

And this applies to the future of Singapore too.

"We got to keep abreast with changes in technology, the changes in lifestyles which technology brings with it and at the same time accommodate the different races, religions and cultures that comprise Singapore society. A Singaporean isn’t a homogenous product. He’s either a Chinese Singaporean, an Indian Singaporean or a Bengali Singaporean or Pakistani Singaporean because we have a bilingual education policy. We don’t try to homogenise everybody," said Mr Lee.

At the close of the conference, Mr Lee received a befitting tribute from Forbes, a compilation of the articles and columns he had so far contributed to the magazine. - CNA /dt

 source: Channel News Asia