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Singapore’s Trade Affairs: Should We Trust “Limited” Maj-Gen Chan, or “Big Knock-Off” Heng?

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HAROLD CHAI: Trade tensions have been simmering between the United States and China of late.

Last Friday (18 May), MP for Ang Moh Kio GRC Gan Thiam Poh asked about the impact a trade war between the 2 global superpowers could have on Singapore.

To that, Maj-Gen Chan Chun Sing replied that there would be a “limited” impact on Singapore’s economy.

He added that Singapore’s domestic exports to the US were limited given the “modest share that [Singapore’s exports to the US] have as a percentage of Singapore’s total domestic exports”

According to American government agency, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the US is Singapore’s third largest goods trading partner, after China and Malaysia.

Maj-Gen Chan was appointed as Minister for Trade and Industry at the start of this month.

Two weeks before Maj-Gen Chang’s reply in parliament, we heard the exact opposite from Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at the ASEAN+3 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting (5 May).

Mr Heng, in response US-China trade tensions questions, said the any action by major economies “can have a very big knock-on effect on everyone else”.

He said that the global economy is “more integrated now” and as such, Singapore “cannot escape the negative effects of a trade war”.

On 3 May, Mr Heng said at the ASEAN Conference 2017 that trade issues are “extremely complex” and warned countries to adjust if they don’t want to be left behind.

Mr Heng, who has recently been appointed as the chairman of the National Research Foundation, is spearheading the effort to grow Singapore as a hub for technology and enterprise.

So, do Singaporeans put our faith in Maj-Gen Chan, or Mr Heng – because it looks like one of them is going to be our next prime minister.

My bet is on Heng.

 

 

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