Speech by President Halimah Yacob at ASEAN Business Awards Gala Dinner

Dr Robert Yap,

Chair of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council 2018

His Excellency Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad,

Prime Minister of Malaysia

Your Excellencies

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening.

I am pleased to join you this evening for the 12th edition of the ASEAN Business Awards Gala Dinner 2018. For more than a decade, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) has recognised and celebrated outstanding ASEAN enterprises that contributed to the economic growth and success of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

ASEAN has come a long way since it was established 51 years ago. Today, ASEAN citizens work, live and play in a dynamic region of 630 million people. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), annual GDP growth in ASEAN averaged 5.1 per cent each year, between 2010 and 2016. This is well above the global average of 3.9 per cent. ASEAN is already the sixth largest economy in the world today, and is projected to become the fourth largest economy by 2030. The AEC is also one of the more successful economic groupings in the world and widely recognised as an investment destination of choice for global businesses.

But we are now operating in an increasingly uncertain environment. The rise of trade protectionism and economic nationalism threatens to undermine the open, free and rules-based multilateral trading system that has underpinned ASEAN’s prosperity for decades. Emerging technologies are disrupting traditional business models as well as global supply and value chains. For example, the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents both challenges and new opportunities, as firms adjust to the new digital economy.

With this in mind, the theme for Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018 was "Resilient and Innovative". This is a call to action for ASEAN governments, businesses and people. First, to stand united in the face of growing uncertainties and press on with regional economic integration. Second, to remain adaptable and forward-looking when harnessing the opportunities and collectively responding to the challenges of technological change.

With the strong support of fellow ASEAN Member States, we have made further strides in our ongoing journey of regional economic integration. ASEAN took an important step forward in implementing the ASEAN-wide Self-Certification (AWSC) system to improve trade facilitation. The AWSC will make it easier for ASEAN firms to access preferential tariff treatment and enhance intra-ASEAN trade. Since last year, more than 80,000 applications for a preferential Certificate of Origin were received by Singapore-based exporters. The implementation of the AWSC will result in time savings and cost savings of approximately half a million dollars every year for applicants.

The ASEAN Single Window (ASW) also went live in January 2018 for five ASEAN Member States (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam). We hope that the remaining five ASEAN Member States can join the live operation of the ASW soon, so that the ASW can be fully implemented in the near future. Through the AWSC scheme and the ASW, ASEAN will feature amongst global leaders in developing regional initiatives aimed at enabling trade.

In the area of services and investment liberalisation, the ASEAN Economic Ministers also signed the Protocol to Implement the Tenth and final Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) and concluded the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA). ASEAN businesses can now access new services sectors with increased degree of services liberalisation, bolstering intra-ASEAN services trade worth approximately US$116 billion in 2017. We also finalised the Fourth Protocol to Amend the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) that will introduce stronger commitments prohibiting the imposition of performance requirements on investors, and help ASEAN remain an attractive and competitive investment destination.

To promote innovation and e-Commerce, ASEAN Economic Ministers signed the ASEAN Agreement on E-Commerce at the sidelines of the 17th ASEAN Economic Council Meeting earlier today. The Agreement aims to facilitate cross-border e-Commerce transactions, contribute to creating an environment of trust and confidence in the use of e-Commerce, and deepen cooperation to further develop and intensify the use of e-Commerce to drive economic growth and social development in ASEAN.

To fully tap into ASEAN’s economic potential, we will need to continue to harness the energy and capacity of ASEAN’s private sector, including our women, youth and social entrepreneurs. The ASEAN Business Awards celebrates the achievements of outstanding entrepreneurs within these categories, and recognises them for their contributions to our region’s economic growth and prosperity. They will determine the future success of our region.

This year’s Awards also includes a new category – the ASEAN Family Business Award, which recognises outstanding multi-generational family businesses for contributing positively to the AEC through sustainable business models. My warmest congratulations to all the award recipients. You have exemplified the spirit of entrepreneurship, resilience and innovation.

We are at the cusp of a transformation in the global economic landscape. There are challenges ahead. But I also see great opportunities. We are in a good position to shape our region’s success story on the global stage. ASEAN governments and businesses must take action, continue to be bold, aspirational, and future-oriented. Together, ASEAN is stronger. Together, we can co-create a vibrant ASEAN Economic Community that is full of opportunities. Together, we can build an endearing home for all of us.

Thank you.