Ms Coke-Hamilton answered the question of how industrialized countries, such as EFTA Member States, can strengthen countries such as the least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa. She said: «It is interesting to note that EFTA has a free trade agreement with the South African Customs Union (SACU) and can serve as a basis for EFTA to build relationships and strengthen the capacity of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA). Because one of the main weaknesses we have seen in most of these free trade zones and free trade agreements is that they are good on paper, but at the end of the day they do not move to business penetration towards improved economic growth. 7. Singapore looks forward to having a continuous partner within the EU and other like-minded nations to resist nativist rhetoric and domestic policy. We must maintain a strong position in favour of free trade and multilateralism in all major countries such as the WTO, the G20, ASEAN and APEC. The stakes are high and we will certainly do less well if the world is fragmented into economic blocs. Crucially, we must also do everything in our power to ensure that the benefits of free trade are distributed equitably in our societies. 6. The EU and Singapore have resisted this pressure based on the deep and reciprocal belief that free trade supports global peace and prosperity. Global economic connectivity is essential if we are to realize our full potential. Only by working together can we take advantage of each other`s competitive advantages and create a broader package than the sum of its parts. In recent times, some have stressed the need for fair trade; But it is neither a new term nor a concept that is the subject of differences of opinion. A rules-based and transparent multilateral trading system is the very basis of fair trade.
And there are many other things we can and should do to better secure our supply chains and make them more resilient. On October 28, 2020, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of EFTA, a roundtable discussion on world trade at the time – and after – COVID-19 was held online. The organisation, led by Swiss Ambassador Didier Chambovey, hosted three speakers with in-depth knowledge of the global business environment: Joo Aguiar Machado, EU Ambassador to the WTO; Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre and Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, former Director of the WTO`s Department of Trade in Services and Investment. 12. But the potential of our digital economies is not fully exploited because traditional trade rules and policies are less suited to 21st century digital or digital transactions. Singapore is thus at the forefront of a network of agreements on the digital economy (DEA) with like-minded international partners. These AEDs will enable end-to-end digital commerce that covers areas such as cross-border data flows, the use of a business identifier in different legal systems, and electronic payment activities. We have signed AEDs with Chile, New Zealand, Australia and we are in advanced talks with the Republic of Korea (ROK).