Asia and Europe must join hands to ensure recovery: PM Lee

14 October 2014

Source: Today (Singapore)
Source type: Newspaper
Published on: 05 Oct 2010

BRUSSELS - The message was not any less clear, despite his absence: The governments of Asia and Europe must work together for a sustained economic recovery.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua made this call yesterday at the Asia Europe Business Forum and positioned Singapore as a bridge for financial institutions to serve a booming Asia, on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The best approach, she said, was to stay vigilant, compare notes regularly and maintain a healthy scepticism - that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Since 1996, the forum has contributed to closer business relations between the regions, and much of the discussion and recommendations at this meeting will be presented to Asia-Europe Meeting leaders today.

Mrs Lim conveyed Mr Lee's apologies for "not being here due to the unfortunate passing of his beloved mother".

Then in her speech, she outlined how Europe and Asia have complementary needs.

European financial institutions can gain from Asia's growth and facilitate the development of Asian capital markets, for instance.

"Private equity firms and venture capitalists can invest in new growth sectors and encourage corporate restructuring," said Mrs Lim, who then made the pitch for Singapore as a regional platform for banking services.

"We're a natural base for financial institutions to serve a booming Asia. We're already home to many international, including European, banks, and we've created a vibrant banking scene, with a rich array of innovative products and more discriminating pricing models."

Beyond that, she said the focus must be on real economies and take into account strong feelings on the ground, as seen in recent demonstrations in Europe over austerity measures.

"Governments are under tremendous pressure to shore up growth, create jobs and improve livelihoods and at the same time to reduce budget deficits," she said.

The hope is that governments will take the necessary steps to sustain economic growth for the long term.

Mrs Lim added, "More developed economies cannot compete in making basic goods, like clothing and candles, no matter what the exchange rate."

There was also a strong call for free trade and a renewed effort toward economic integration, echoed by the Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister ahead of the G-20 Summit next month in Seoul.

"Did you notice that 12 countries assisting in this Asem Summit are G-20 at the same time. If we would perchance come to some higher level of consensus, already 12 of the G-20 members would have agreed upon some progress," said Mr Steven Vanackere.

"The world desperately needs a framework that supports financial stability albeit without stiffing economic growth and innovation."