P. S. Suryanarayana

`Singapore will continue to open up'

SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday hailed the "momentum" that India and China had achieved in Asia's economic domain at this stage.

Addressing the City-State on the eve of its National Day, Mr. Lee said Singapore's economic pacts with several countries would "protect" it, if the global trade talks, now "stalled," were to fail altogether. Singapore has just now marked the first year of implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India.

Noting that the U.S. economy was now "slowing down," he said that "in Asia, the strong momentum of China and India continues to fuel the dynamism and optimism of the entire region." Southeast Asia, including Singapore, "is benefiting from this."

If, in this context, the stalled Doha Round were to "fail," Singapore would become "very vulnerable." However, the City-State's free trade agreements would "safeguard" its "access to important markets." India-Singapore CECA is in this category.

On domestic issues, Mr. Lee said "we are building a more open society, and encouraging freer debate." Affirming that "we will continue to open up in a considered and progressive way," he called upon Singaporeans to "express themselves freely but responsibly."

Noting that the general election last May had "settled the team to lead Singapore and the direction that Singapore should take over the next five years," he said "at the end of the term, the Government will put its record before the people."