Singapore: Visit by Stephen Hammond: Background Brief – February 2014
British High Commission Singapore
Stephen Hammond’s visit will include support for our rail and port High Value Opportunities, leadership of the first ever UK-Ireland trade mission for the Singapore Airshow, a speech at the EU-ASEAN Aviation Summit and public diplomacy with the GREAT Clipper yacht and bus, and much more.
Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, will spend a week in Singapore from 5-12 February for a programme based around promotion of UK strengths in aerospace, rail, public transport and maritime sectors.
He will lead a joint trade mission to the Singapore Airshow with Richard Bruton, Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation in the Irish Government and Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in the Northern Ireland Executive. This stems from the March 2012 commitment by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to “an intensive programme of work aimed at reinforcing the British Irish relationship over the next decade”. The three Ministers will attend a seminar for the delegation, visit ST Aerospace and attend the official opening of the Airshow before meeting companies at a UK/Irish pavilion in the exhibition hall.
The programme will also include a bilateral with Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport, meetings with the Land Transport Authority, key agencies leading the development of Singapore’s hugely ambitious port plans and Comfort DelGro, an important investor in the UK’s transport system and owner of a Singapore bus operator.
In terms of business engagement, the Minister will meet a number of British companies active in the transport and infrastructure sectors at events at the residence (including receptions for Clipper and the Airshow), lunches with maritime companies including the Maritime Coastguard Agency to promote the use of the UK Flag, and a dinner with the British Chamber of Commerce’s most significant sponsors as it celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Mr Hammond will also visit Rolls-Royce’s Seletar complex.
A variety of public diplomacy engagements include promoting the UK during the stopover of the GREAT Clipper yacht in Singapore, events with the GREAT bus, and a speech at the EU-ASEAN Aviation Summit. Media elements include interviews with the BBC and major regional outlets.
Singapore – a small city-state of 5.3 million people on an island slightly larger than the Isle of Wight – continues to punch well above its weight economically. After disappointing growth of just 1.3% in 2012, GDP grew by 3.7% in 2013, driven by a stronger performance in services and a recovery in the manufacturing sector. The government forecasts GDP growth of between 2 and 4% in 2014. Inflation has moderated but the cost of living remains high.
The government remains keen to keep the balance which has helped Singapore to experience economic growth and attract foreign investment, with 21% of the economy devoted to manufacturing. It takes a business-like far sighted approach to its economic strategy that includes constructing two more terminals at Changi airport, doubling the rail network and moving the port to a larger reclaimed site by 2023. Strategies are being put in place to address longer term structural issues in response to increasing competition and domestic concerns. The current focus is increased productivity with less imported labour, but manufacturers are finding this tough.
The People’s Action Party has been in power since independence. The biggest issue is immigration, in particular how the influx of foreign workers has resulted in overcrowded trains, schools and hospitals. Around a third of the working population are foreigners.
A steady stream of senior visitors have helped to give the UK a high profile in Singapore. We have around 1,000 companies here, many serving as regional HQs. They have contributed significantly to the Singaporean economy for many decades. Standard Chartered and HSBC are key players in the retail banking scene. The large contingent of foreign law practices is dominated by British firms: 40 now have a presence here.
UK goods exports to Singapore rose 16% in 2012 and account for almost half of those to ASEAN. We enjoy a significant trade surplus in our favour. But services fell sharply in 2012, and goods show a decrease of 1.4% over the first eleven months of 2013, and we are still only Singapore’s fourth largest trading partner in the EU, trailing Germany, France and the Netherlands so there is scope for improvement. We are the third largest foreign direct investor, after the US and the Netherlands, with stock of £28 billion at the end of 2011. The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement was initialled last September and is expected to be ratified by the European Parliament in 2014. This will be a further boost for UK firms and we need to make sure our companies exploit the opportunity. Going the other way, 75% of Singapore’s investment in Europe goes to the UK.
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