Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister in Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport, at the Opening Ceremony of Global Entrepolis @ Singapore 2009, 11 November 2009, 9:00 AM at Raffles City Convention Center11 Nov 2009
Mr Tony Chew,
Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation,
Mr Leo Yip,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
1. I am glad to join you for the opening of Global Entrepolis @ Singapore. Let me extend a warm welcome to all of you, especially our overseas guests. Since we hosted the last convention, the world had undergone what was deemed by many earlier this year to be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Fortunately, the mood has brightened considerably since April and we have passed the worst of the storm. Many companies that have weathered the storm are now looking to seize global opportunities that have emerged in the aftermath of the crisis. A recent Economic Intelligence Unit survey on future SME optimism revealed that by 2011, 70% of those surveyed expect to see an increase in demand for their products and services, and 54% expect revenue growth.
2. The theme for this year’s GES – “Building Connections and Unlocking Opportunities” – reflects not only this optimism, but also highlights the importance of networks in a global marketplace. Increasingly, global SMEs, with their niche expertise and specialized products and services, are taking the lead by forging linkages, often through acquisitions and partnerships, to gain inroads to new markets and unlock the opportunities that they offer. Similarly, many other internally-minded SMEs are also actively seeking out partnerships to tap on emerging new growth opportunities, particularly in Asia.
Singapore: A Partner for Internationally-Minded SMEs
3. In this context, Singapore presents great opportunities for such SMEs seeking to unlock opportunities in Asia. Singapore is seamlessly integrated with the global market not just via physical connectivity, but also through trade relations. Singapore has been engaging China and we have established business councils with 7 key provinces or central administered municipalities such as Shandong, Sichuan, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Tianjin, Jiangsu and Guangdong. Singapore is also the first Asian country to sign a comprehensive bilateral Free Trade Agreement with China. On the same note, Singapore's economic relations with India are strong and robust. Similarly, Singapore is also the first country to conclude and sign a comprehensive FTA with India - the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) covering trade in goods, services, investment and cooperation in key areas. The CECA, which came into force in 2005, forms the cornerstone of the two countries’ economic partnership.
4. Our connectedness to the region, coupled with our commitment to a business-friendly enterprise ecosystem, offers growth-oriented SMEs an extraordinary array of opportunities for interesting collaborations and has attracted many international MNCs and SMEs to Singapore. Apart from 7,000 MNCs primarily from the US, Europe, and Japan, Singapore also has some 40,000 international companies, many which are from China, India, Australia, New Zealand, and our ASEAN neighbours.
5. The GES’s networking platform complements this international marketplace of business activities. It brings together businesses of all sizes, across all sectors and from all regions on a single platform and highlights cross-border business opportunities with a business matching programme between local and foreign delegates spread over these two days.
GES 2009: Celebrating SMEs
6. In addition to the APEC SME Summit, GES has also successfully created a number of compelling business conferences and networking events. One such example is the Forbes Asia “Best Under A Billion” Awards Night.
7. These events feature an international cast of renowned speakers, thought leaders and outstanding business personalities who are an inspiration to the global business community and to aspiring SME entrepreneurs. They can also deliver fresh insights into some of the key globalisation challenges and identify trends and successful strategies for future growth.
8. There is an interesting mix of people here with us this week - a number of young entrepreneurs, a few billionaires and even a movie star to inspire us. Notable speakers include Jack Ma, founder and Chairman of Alibaba.com, a global leader in business-to-business e-commerce, Scott Davis, the CEO of UPS, the world's largest package delivery company and Jet Li, international movie star and founder of One Foundation, a refreshing and novel model for social enterprises.
9. The Forbes Asia “Best Under A Billion” Award is indeed an exciting new addition to the programme. Almost half of Forbes magazine’s 200 ‘Best Mid Size Companies’ in Asia are here with us. These winning organizations, chosen from 24,000 listed companies with revenues below US$1 billion dollars, are poised to be the next generation of global business champions and make inspiring role models for SMEs in Singapore, in the region and around the world.
10. I am particularly pleased to see this very encouraging turnout by SMEs at this GES. SMEs are the backbone of every economy around the world. By helping such companies build regional and global connections and unlock their potential, GES will be a solid platform that will help our SMEs become the Globally Competitive Companies of tomorrow and inspire more young people to set up their own businesses.
11. This year is particularly significant for GES as it coincides with Singapore’s hosting of APEC. Apart from political leaders, many global business leaders and industry experts are in Singapore during this period. And I am delighted to see that many of them have taken the opportunity to attend GES 2009 as well – to share their thought leadership and business expertise.
12. GES has always served to showcase Singapore as a vibrant marketplace, where ideas are easily exchanged from all over the world and new opportunities can be discovered. To the foreign guests who have travelled to Singapore from near and far, I hope that you forge many connections and find a barrelful of opportunities, to make your stay in Singapore a fruitful one.
13. I wish you all an enjoyable morning. Thank you.