On 8 November 2018, Business China and the Switzerland Embassy in Singapore partnered for the first time to organise a panel discussion on “The 5th Anniversary of Belt and Road Initiative: Progress and Opportunities for Singapore and Switzerland”. The event provided an opportunity for the business communities of both countries to share their experiences regarding the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) five years after it was officially promulgated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Mrs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, State Secretary for Economic Affairs of Switzerland and Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Chairman of Business China, MP for East Coast GRC, graced the event. Four highly accomplished business leaders – Dr Ernest Kan, Chief Advisor of Capital Markets China, SGX; Mr Johan De Villiers, Country Managing Director, ABB Singapore; Mr Lawrence Yip, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice-President, Sembcorp Parks Management; and Mr Kelvin Tay, Managing Director, Regional Chief Investment Officer, UBS Global Wealth Management (APAC) – shared their insights in a lively panel discussion moderated by Mrs Pamela Qiu, Associate Director of Economist Corporate Network (South-East Asia). More than 60 representatives from the business communities and political sectors of Singapore and Switzerland attended the event.
In his opening speech, Business China Chairman, Mr Lee Yi Shyan described the similarities in the social conditions and economic models of Singapore and Switzerland. Notably, Mr Lee illustrated Singapore’s deep economic ties with China, with Singapore being the node for significant portion of outbound investments and inbound investments for the BRI. Singapore and Switzerland could consider cooperating in three key areas under the BRI: Lend common strengths in innovation and research to regional partners; let Singapore serve as pathfinder for Swiss companies looking to expand into China and Southeast Asia; and bolster cultural and people-to-people ties with China through joint exchange programmes.
Mrs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, in turn, highlighted the necessity of small countries like Switzerland and Singapore to engage in trade. Both countries would have no choice but to opt for excellence and to constantly look for possibilities to cooperate with economic partners around the globe. Accordingly, Swiss companies could potentially join forces with Singaporean companies in the BRI framework, contributing in areas such as high-tech construction and equipment or financial risk management. In order to succeed, however, investments needed to be guided by the highest engineering, environmental and social standards, and in line with international procurement procedures.
Following the speeches of both Guests-of-Honour, the Forum proceeded to the panel session. The panellists spoke and shared their insights on challenges and opportunities of the BRI, how to finance projects, ways to mitigate risks in third countries, as well as how complementary collaboration between Singapore and Switzerland companies could take shape. A particular highlight was the possibility for Singapore financial institutions and Swiss firms to jointly offer financing channels and engineering expertise to fill the vast capital and infrastructural needs required by ASEAN countries participating in the BRI.
The Forum came to a close with a networking session between the attending business representatives and delegates.
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