Singapore: Last week, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, Gan Kim Yong, was in New Delhi and spoke at the 28th Annual Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit where he encouraged Indian businesses to increase their investments and trade with Southeast Asia.

The summit titled "Partnerships for Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable, and Equitable Businesses", was held at the Taj Palace, New Delhi, March 13-15, and chaired by Union minister Piyush Goyal. It was organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Department for Promotion of Internal Trade and Industry, (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Covering a wide range of subjects of global interest for governments and businesses, the 2023 edition of the summit is the largest held since 1995.

A total of 145 government officials and executives, including 65 international speakers from 24 countries spoke at the summit's 35 sessions. Participating were almost 400 delegates representing 67 countries including Bhutan, Canada, Cuba, South Korea, Mauritius, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as President of CII Sanjiv Bajaj.

Also speaking at the conference was Indonesian Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan, who highlighted Indonesia's commitment to improving its collaboration with India.

Hasan said, "The CII Partnership Summit 2023 can contribute positively to the improvement of Indonesia-India relations, just like what the founding fathers of the two countries dream of. Improving international collaboration has become crucial and relevant to the theme of this summit."

He added that India is Indonesia's strategic partner, with trade value between both nations recording a high of USD 32.7 billion in 2022 and establishing India's position as a major trading partner of Indonesia. Indonesia is keen on collaborating with India in the areas of information technology, health, and pharmaceuticals.

In his speech, Singapore's minister for trade and industry, Gan highlighted the opportunity for Indian businesses to expand into ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

ASEAN is a political and economic union of 10 member states in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation in various fields including economics, politics, security, and education. It established the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 to promote free trade in the region and to amplify the bloc's strength when dealing with its trading partners.

In 2021, ASEAN's economy was valued at USD3.3 trillion which is similar to that of India, ranking both joint fifths in the world, and third in Asia, behind China and Japan.

Although ASEAN attracted USD 175 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, making it the third largest FDI recipient in the world, after the US and China, only USD 1.9 billion came from India.

Gan said, "As India drives towards a USD30 trillion economy by 2050, my challenge to Indian businesses is to increase your investment in ASEAN by at least ten-fold to 20 billion USD by the end of this decade."

Singapore's trade minister also believes that merchandise trade between India and ASEAN has plenty of room to grow and encouraged Indian businesses to find partners to seize opportunities in ASEAN. He cited data that showed that between 2020 and 2021, trade between ASEAN and India grew by just 1 per cent and is only 2 per cent of ASEAN's total trade.

The comprehensive set of trade agreements which covers goods, services, and investments, between India and ASEAN enables Indian businesses to easily tap ASEAN's market of 680 million people.

Gan suggested that combined with India, this creates a market of more than 2 billion people - a quarter of the world's population - with an expanding middle class of 500 million. Together with partners in ASEAN, Indian businesses can reach out to Australia, Japan, Korea, and even China.

India and Singapore have enjoyed close economic and social ties for many years. Indian firms registered in Singapore make up the largest number from a single country with over 10,000 registered businesses. According to the High Commission of India in Singapore, Singapore investors have pumped into India more than USD 137 billion over the last 20 years. This accounts for nearly 23 per cent of total FDI inflows. In 2021, Singaporean investments in India stood at USD 17.4 billion.

"These investments speak well of India's ongoing and successful effort to become more business and investor-friendly, while also helping Indian startups and established companies to grow and create good jobs," Gan said.

Gan suggests that Singapore and India can explore partnerships in new areas such as renewable energy and supply chain resilience.

"Indeed, we meet in a time of great political, economic, social, and environmental stress. Our world is facing unprecedented uncertainty and economic headwinds. Many countries, even those that once took for granted that the supermarket would always be full, are now worried about food security. Geopolitical conflict fans mistrust that undermines globalization and the international cooperation needed to tackle common threats such as climate change."

Gan urged Indian businesses to seize opportunities to further deepen partnerships with Singapore as well as ASEAN companies.

In conclusion, he said, "The CII Partnership Summit is an excellent occasion to affirm enduring relationships and form new partnerships to explore together the opportunities to not only do business with one another, but to uplift the lives of our peoples through responsible, innovative, sustainable, and equitable practices."