Although Singapore and Canada are two countries separated by vast geographical distances and cultures, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has many reasons to feel right at home in Singapore.
Both countries share a core belief that strong economic growth comes from a diverse group of people — of different cultures, religions, languages and origins — working together to solve common problems.
“That is something these places [Singapore and Canada] do extraordinarily well. In Canada, we demonstrated that differences are a source of strength; and here, the kind of resilience you built in Singapore from people of different perspectives and background, is an example,” said Trudeau.
“Canada has a skilled and diverse workforce — we are in great shape to become a global hub for innovation right across the board,” he added.
Trudeau was addressing a packed modest-sized room at the Canada Fintech Forum, a side event held at this year’s Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF).
“We are two countries that understand the importance of trade,” he said.
He noted that Singapore’s “reason for being” was because it positioned itself as a successful trading hub facilitating connections from across the Asia-Pacific region.
And in Canada’s case, its pool of natural resources outstrips its domestic market, so the country mines and sells natural resources such as lumber to overseas markets.
But like Singapore, Canada has also recognised that its people are the most invaluable assets.
“Our human resources are the most important thing in Canada. That is where our investments in education, in skills, in research and science have brought us to a place that is pretty exciting right now in Canada,” said Trudeau.
Canada is also a signatory to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a free trade pact between 11 countries including Singapore.
The lowering of trade barriers would enable closer collaborations between businesses from the two countries — and this would ultimately lead to greater prosperity for all parties.
“It’s a smart move for Canada and Singapore to work together. It is how we can create the right conditions for our fintech sector grow and prosper; build shared success, not just here, but around the world,” said Trudeau.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)’s managing director, Ravi Menon, in his opening address to introduce Trudeau, cited two examples of how Canada and Singapore are working together to develop digital solutions.
First MAS and the Bank of Canada are working together to build a blockchain-based payment platform. Second, a Canadian insurtech startup called Boxx Insurance made a connection with insurance company AXA Singapore by attending this year’s SFF. Together, they will work on an SME-focused solution.
Singapore businesses may also be able to harness the talent of Canadian entrepreneurs in the coming years, as the government continues to pour heavy investment to support the growth of its ecosystem.
“We are making historic investments in cleantech. We are putting together a national strategy on AI to catalyse on being the world leader in the field,” said Trudeau.
In his closing statement, Trudeau reaffirmed his country’s commitment to innovation, and even made a slight jab at countries who are not so forward-thinking (one does not need to think hard to figure out which countries he is referring to)
“We are a country that has decided, that despite all the anxiety about the future, and the transformations on the workplace and economies, that while some people seem to be trying to drag out the last of the way things used to be and hold on to the old ways as long as possible, Canada is much better doubling down on the future, to invest in the kinds of solutions that we need tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” he concluded.