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Asia 'well placed' to weather slowdown

Publication Date : 24-10-2012


Asia's developed economies will be cushioned from a major slowdown but they still have a lot of work to do to realise their full economic potential, said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang yesterday.

Lim, who was speaking at the opening of the Global Entrepolis Singapore Business Leaders Summit, said the region's challenges include raising workforce skills and productivity, and deepening economic links across the region.

He added that Asian countries are still well placed to weather the full brunt of a prolonged slowdown in Western economies, thanks to their relatively healthier fiscal positions, strong investment inflows and buoyant domestic demand.

And while developed economies still represent the largest export markets for many Asian countries, intra-Asian trade has grown very strongly, increasing threefold between 2000 and last year, he said.

But there is more ground for Asia to cover to fully realise its growth potential.

"We will need to think hard about raising labour productivity and investing in the equipment, infrastructure and training needed to maximise the potential of our people," said Lim.

"We will also need to tackle structural challenges and pursue regulatory reforms, in order to deepen our economic linkages and sustain good growth across the region."

Such moves are important as modern business needs are constantly evolving, he said.

For example, supply chains extend across many suppliers and partners from different countries, so disruptions or increased trade barriers in one economy will hurt many players along that chain.

Lim noted, however, that there has already been good progress in improving connectivity in the region.

For example, countries in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum have made serious efforts to tackle the trade barriers across their borders.

As a result, it now costs an Apec economy 44 per cent less to export a container and 49 per cent less to import one, compared with the rest of the world.

About 1,200 delegates are attending the four-day summit, which is organised by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).

The event, which ends tomorrow, has been divided into several forums, each focusing on a specific issue, such as clean technology and sustainability; challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises; franchising; and talent retention and development.

Several sessions are devoted to discussing business opportunities in emerging markets such as Myanmar, Indonesia and Ukraine.

SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit said there has been great interest in Myanmar among local firms.

In fact, the SBF will soon be leading its third business mission there this year, with representatives from 40 companies.

Two missions earlier this year garnered participation from about 160 firms.


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