Opening Remarks by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the dinner hosted at the Istana for participants of the Asia Rising Dialogue in Singapore on 7 December 2015

Mr Kevin Rudd

President

Asia Society Policy Institute

Honorary Counsellors

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Istana.

The theme of the Asia Rising Dialogue is “Asia Rising and Our Shared Future”. It is a timely event with a fitting theme. The world has undergone rapid and profound changes in the last decade.  Asia has emerged relatively unscathed in the last global financial crisis and its stability will continue to pave the way for greater economic prosperity.  Although significant challenges remain, Asia is a bright spot amidst global concerns about terrorism, civil strife and economic crises.

Since the end of World War II, the US has played and continues to play a critical role in underpinning regional stability, creating the conditions that have enabled our region to grow and prosper. The strategic and economic engagement of the US in the region will be further reinforced by the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). We hope the TPP will see a smooth passage in the US Congress soon.

Together with the US, China is an important player in Asia. Since 2010, China has been the world’s second largest economy and is the largest or second largest trading partner of nearly every country in Asia. In recent years, China’s international profile has risen through its active diplomacy, partnership agreements established with key countries, and new initiatives such as the “One Belt One Road” and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

As the world’s third largest economy, Japan continues to be a significant driver of regional growth. It is also a major contributor of development assistance in the region. Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan is undergoing revitalization and aspiring to play a more active role in contributing to regional peace and stability.

In India, cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai have become vibrant economic centres. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pursuing a strong domestic reform agenda and his “Act East” policy is envisioned to deepen India’s economic and strategic engagement of the region.

Closer to home, ASEAN will become a Community at the end of this month. ASEAN will remain among the fastest growing regions in the world. The ASEAN Economic Community, in particular, will be a milestone in ASEAN’s integration, creating freer movement of trade and capital. ASEAN’s engagement with external partners has also increased. The East Asia Summit has become an integral part of the regional architecture, providing the platform for ASEAN to engage key regional partners including the US, China, Japan, India, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand. ASEAN is also negotiating a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that will comprise about a third of global GDP.

However Asia’s continued growth cannot be taken for granted. Territorial disputes in the South and East China Sea, the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, as well as growing nationalistic trends, if not properly managed, could derail the region’s growth path. Competitive dynamics within and outside Asia have increased as major powers jostle for influence. The pace and quality of development in the region is also uneven. Income disparity within and across economies is widening. Governments also have to grapple with other new challenges arising from rapid urbanisation, environmental degradation and the proliferation of social media.    

Singapore is strategically located between the East and the West. But we are a small player. We have been able to ride on Asia’s growth to emerge as a hub for trade, finance, transport and logistics. As an open economy, Singapore has been a strong proponent of free trade. We have one of the most extensive networks of free trade agreements in Asia and are active members of the TPP, the RCEP and the AIIB. 

As a small city-state, Singapore’s survival and prosperity is tied to the stability and well-being of the region. We have a strong interest in promoting regional peace and stability as well as stronger economic growth and linkages. Singapore has to constantly create our relevance to our partners and play a constructive role in regional affairs.  We participate actively in international and regional fora including ASEAN and its associated meetings, APEC and ASEM to encourage constructive engagement and foster regional stability.

Fora like the Asia Rising Dialogue play a constructive role in facilitating open discussions and interactions, and in building connections between peoples from different parts of the world. Singapore is honoured to host the event. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and commend Asia Society Policy Institute and S Rajaratnam Endowment for the successful organization of the dialogue.  

I wish you an enjoyable evening ahead.  Thank you.