Back to top

Remarks by Minister for Transport, Mr Ong Ye Kung, at the AmCham Annual General Meeting

23 Apr 2021 Speeches

Ms Lisa Liaw, Chair, AmCham Board of Governors

Dr Hsien Hsien Lei, Chief Executive Officer, AmCham Singapore 

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1.     Very happy to join all of you at the 48th AmCham AGM today. We are also here to give out some awards: The AmCham CARES Awards, that was launched in 2016 to honour the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the US.  Over the years, you have recognised more than 100 companies for all their outstanding social and community contributions in Singapore. I thank them all. We can award one batch of companies a year, but once an award winner – we thank you for a long, long time.   

2.     This year, AmCham is recognising 38 companies, including 9 High Distinction CARE recipients; Amgen Singapore Manufacturing; Edwards Lifesciences – which actually I have a long association with; Emergenetics Asia Pacific; HP – very long history in Singapore; Kellogg – never forget them for the breakfast they bring you; Moody’s Investors Service; Procter & Gamble – constantly reminded of their brand in our daily lives; the Adecco Group; and Xylem Southeast Asia.  I congratulate all awardees for your good work, and thank you for being a part of the Singapore social fabric. 

3.     This year, we mark the 55 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the US. And we really hope during this year, I have a chance to go to the US. We are all working on that. It is a relationship that is substantive, growing and taking on new dimensions all the time, year after year.  

4.     In trade and investment, relations continue to be strong throughout the COVID period.  We all know there are over 5,000 American companies in Singapore, 30,000 Americans living, working, and studying here1.  Many whom I know, and even some roots here too. The US continues to be the largest investor in Singapore by far, with over S$428 billion of investment to date.  This is testament to the US companies’ continued trust and faith in Singapore, that we provide a predictable, stable environment where there is peace and harmony, and we are a business hub that you can grow your business here, effectively, efficiently.

5.     We are also major trading partners.  Singapore is the US’ largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, and the US is Singapore’s third largest trading partner in goods, but in services, you continue to be our largest.  I believe a large part of it is due to the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, some companies make use of it, but even if you don’t make use of it, that signal is very strong: we are strongly anchored in each other’s economic growth and development. It entered into force in 2004, and it has served as the cornerstone of our trade and investment relations. I am honoured, very privileged to have played a part in negotiating that, it has caused me sleepless nights, but it was well worth it. 

6.     Whether it is defence, education, counter-terrorism and now the fight against COVID and climate change – our institutions have been working closely together, with a very healthy respect for each other’s knowhow and professionalism. 

7.     In aviation, I hope that with vaccinations, we can allow freer air travel between our countries soon. I watch the US’ COVID numbers every day, and despite the spikes in cases in certain states, I think the overall trend still looks healthy. I hope the infection rates in the US can be brought down, and this will set the pre-conditions for some resumption in air travel. Because for Singapore, we already travel freely into the US without quarantine – all we need is for it to be reciprocated. It is within our control, but the conditions have to be right – the infection rates have to drop, and we can reciprocate to say, vaccinated travellers can come to Singapore without quarantine. With the right trend and without letting your guard down too much in the US, I hope that we can do something by the end of the year. We will keep our fingers crossed. 

8.     Relationships are simply not the same without face to face meetings and interactions. We are establishing bilateral and multilateral mechanisms for recognition of vaccination certificates. In the US, it’s a bit different, there are many systems – we will have to find a way to recognise them. We are also working on establishing Air Travel Bubbles to resuscitate cross-border air travel with other places that have successfully controlled COVID-19. Hong Kong is one of our partners. We’ve been talking about air travel bubble with Hong Kong for some time; we had an agreement we couldn’t start. We had to defer it earlier because of a spike of cases in Hong Kong. But cases have come down significantly and under control in Hong Kong, similarly in Singapore. So the conditions may be right for us to start the air travel bubble very soon. It is significant, as this is between two international cities which are both financial and aviation hubs. This will be a significant signal to the rest of the world. 

9.     In the process of reviving air travel, we had help from many US companies – which developed travel wallet apps, and provided vaccines and vaccine shipments, and many other innovative ideas to help air travel to resume globally. I look forward to even more innovations. 

10.    Another important area of co-operation between US and Singapore is climate change. Yesterday we had a virtual Leaders’ Summit, which included Singapore PM, and chaired by President Biden. I recently also had an excellent meeting with US Secretary of Transportation, Mr Pete Buttigieg, and we released a Joint Statement on transport co-operation which included the US and Singapore working together on stronger climate action and sustainable development. These efforts include cleaner energy vehicles, such as electric vehicles, smart mobility, climate-friendly land transport; as well as green fuels, clean technologies, and more efficient traffic management for aviation and maritime transport. I recently learnt that inefficient air travel management led to aircraft to stack and go round before they land – we all have that experience. The wastage of fuel and excessive carbon emissions is more than that of having inefficient aircraft. Air travel management is another area that we can cooperate on. 

11.    These are just some of the many areas which governments and businesses can work closely together. I would like to thank AmCham members for your strong support and partnership with Singapore.  I also wish you all good health and a fruitful AGM.  Thank you.

1Figure from the US Department of State, as of 2 December 2019