ST Global Forum explores wide-ranging issues

“Asean is going to be the sleeper hit of the next few decades,” said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in his keynote address at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum 2016, the fifth edition of which was held on Nov 29.

He urged Asean to build interdependence and collaboration, as “the truth is that we are all interconnected” despite the xenophobic and isolationist tendencies in the world. This will serve it well as it grows into a global economic powerhouse. He said that the combined economic output of the bloc may grow to US$10 trillion (S$14.38 trillion).

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore is committed to trade and global integration and maintaining its wide-ranging relationships with other nations.

Other topics he touched on included the Government’s foreign affairs position on front page global events such as the US election results, the role of Asean and the SAF vehicle seizure incident.

His speech and question and answer session was followed by a discussion involving a panel of esteemed guest speakers, who are experts in their respective fields in economics, politics and public policy. The discussion gave rise to an insightful exchange of ideas about a variety of salient global issues. The speakers were Professor Wang Gungwu, chairman of East Asian Institute and ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute; Professor Subrata K Mitra, director, Institute of South Asian Studies; Ms Selena Ling, head of Treasury, Research & Strategy, OCBC Bank; and Mr Jeremy Au-Yong, The Straits Times’ US bureau chief.

Commenting on Mr Donald Trump’s win in the US election, Mr Au Yong said it represents uncharted territory in many ways. Unity will be harder to achieve following this election following a highly divisive campaign, he added.

Ms Ling said governments in Asia are hoping Mr Trump will be a “pragmatist businessman”.

As to how China will deal with a Trump administration, Prof Wang said Beijing is likely to be cautious.

Prof Mitra noted that “India has to be careful in terms of welcoming a Donald Trump presidency as an unmixed blessing”. Mr Trump has opposed the use of H-1B non-immigrant visas, which allow skilled immigrants such as software specialists to work in tech companies in the US.

The forum was attended by 320 participants, including embassy representatives, readers and OCBC customers. All attendees were given a copy of The Straits Times Asia Report and a goodie bag.

This event was organised by The Straits Times, presented by OCBC Premier Banking and sponsored by Mercedes Benz.

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