Senior trade officials wrapped up two days of consultations in Singapore, focussing on how Asia-Pacific countries could better harness trade policy to strengthen global trade links and step up participation in regional and global value chains.
Co-organised by the Commonwealth and the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the National University of Singapore on 28-29 May, the meeting brought together more than 35 representatives from 14 countries in Asia and the Pacific.
Delegates looked at enhancing trade connectivity, in light of key global economic trends.
In his keynote address, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon stressed the need for a global trading system that ensures opportunities for all countries.
He said: “Given the current backdrop of rising populism and protectionism, it is even more critical for Commonwealth countries to continue to come together to signal our joint commitment towards upholding the open and rules-based multilateral trading system.
“Economic integration remains the essential foundation for global prosperity and progress and allows us to better address the global challenges of the future.”
The meeting covered a broad range of topics, from improving physical connectivity through multi-modal mega-infrastructure projects in the region, to the benefits of digitisation and the sustainable use of the ocean or blue economy.
ISAS Chairman and Ambassador-at-Large at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Gopinath Pillai said the meeting was especially relevant, given recent tensions linked to the U.S-China trade war.
Commonwealth Adviser and Head of International Trade Policy, Brendan Vickers, underlined the “tremendous potential” for strengthening trade and investment linkages in the Commonwealth, citing the long-term goal set by Heads of Government to grow trade to $2 trillion by 2030.
To see best practices in action, delegates visited the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) campus, including the Maritime Hub, Aerospace Hub and the ITE Epitome.
The Commonwealth and ISAS agreed to collaborate on the outcomes of the consultations, which will help inform future Commonwealth trade programmes.