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India-Singapore Business Forum promotes opportunities for holistic growth and partnership

4 October 2016 [Singapore] - The India-Singapore Business Forum held yesterday was in conjunction with the official visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to India. The Forum was attended by more than 260 senior delegates and officials from both countries, and co-organised by five parties, including the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI), International Enterprise Singapore (IES) and Building & Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA). The Forum is supported by Standard Chartered Bank, the strategic partner for this India initiative.

Themed “Fostering holistic growth between India and Singapore”, the Forum discussed opportunities in forging business partnerships between India and Singapore, as well as domestic opportunities, key business trends, policy reforms and other areas of development introduced by the Modi government. The Forum also took a closer look at how India and Singapore can collaborate to venture into regions such as Asean, North Asia, the Middle East and Africa by tapping on strengths of the respective business communities, especially in overseas diaspora.

During the Forum, participants highlighted India’s focus on innovation, observing young start-ups’ preference for Singapore over competing US and European technology hubs. Singapore was cited for its strategic location and connectivity to Asian markets and capital, and its business-friendly environment. The panel called for closer collaboration on SME development and innovation. The panel also looks forward to the enhanced Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and the revised Double Tax Avoidance Agreement, which are expected to create favourable conditions for bilateral trade and investment.

The highlight of the Forum was a ministerial plenary session focusing on economic partnership between India and Singapore, which was led by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) Mr S. Iswaran and India’s Minister of Railways, Mr Suresh Prabhu.

The ministerial panel focused on areas including skills development and the Smart City initiative, which has seen some 60 cities earmarked for development. While Singapore’s expertise for smart city developments is widely known in India, the government needs to clearly identify areas of focus for Singapore companies to be able to participate. Indian companies can also tap on the global capital required to drive infrastructure investment by leveraging Singapore’s global connectivity and pool of financiers.

In addition, the panel discussed partnership on skills development, the export of professional services and Singapore’s expertise to build India’s human capital base from its massive pool of young talents.

Signing of three Memorandums of Understanding

The Forum saw the signing of three Memorandums of Understanding (MOU), with the first MOU between SBF and CII on information exchange, trade and investment facilitation and bilateral cooperation, aiming to develop a bilateral network of young business leaders and entrepreneurs for future business engagement between India and Singapore. SBF and CII will also support each other at international fora on areas of mutual interest and work together to reduce obstacles to trade and investments. Both parties will actively solicit member feedback to jointly represent and advocate key business issues, and provide inputs on policies.

The second MOU between Pacific International Lines and Apollo Logistics Solutions will see both parties jointly develop the containers freight station in India, while the third MOU is between Singamas Management Services and Apollo Logistics Solutions on delivering liquid tank logistics.

Mr SS Teo, Chairman of SBF, said: “India’s domestic consumption-driven growth is a bright spark for Singapore companies amid the volatile global economy, against the backdrop of Brexit and slowdown in growth in major economies. India’s attractiveness to businesses will see a boost especially with concrete steps taken by the Modi government to introduce reforms in key business-related policies such as tax and insolvency.

“In view of the increasing business interest in the India market, SBF is gearing up to enhance our partnerships and lay the foundations for member companies to enter India. This includes feedback and advocacy against issues hindering bilateral trade and investment. Another exciting development will be the partnership with CII for young business leaders and entrepreneurs from both countries to engage each other.

This socialisation process is essential in fostering trust and understanding on both sides. We hope to see the next generation bring our business relationships to greater heights.”

Ajay Kanwal, Regional CEO, ASEAN and South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, and Deputy Mission Leader said: "While the top 500 Indian companies are already in Singapore in one way or another, not as many of Singapore's top companies have successfully entered India. Standard Chartered currently supports around 12,000 corporate clients in India and 6,500 in Singapore and through our intimate knowledge of the markets, strong network and cross border capabilities, our role is to help these businesses internationalise and grow."

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