The Business Year

Lee Yi Shyan

UAE, ABU DHABI - Diplomacy

Eastern Promise

Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore

Bio

Mr Lee Yi Shyan is the Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry and National Development in Singapore. As the Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry, he actively promotes economic exchanges and international trade and investments with China, Middle East and Russia. He was the Co-Vice Chairman of the Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council, and Co-Chairman of the Singapore-Shandong Business Council. Mr Lee is also the Co-Chairman of the Abu Dhabi-Singapore Joint Forum and the Saudi-Singapore Economic Cities Business Forum. For the National Development portfolio, Mr Lee oversees urban planning, city development and town council issues. He also spearheads Singapore’s collaboration with China in the Tianjin Eco-City project. Mr Lee also chairs the Construction Productivity Steering Committee, and Mayors’ Forum during the biennial World Cities Summit.

What specific areas have you identified for collaboration between Abu Dhabi and Singapore? Abu Dhabi is guided by the Vision 2030 and so we know that it has a strong […]

What specific areas have you identified for collaboration between Abu Dhabi and Singapore?

Abu Dhabi is guided by the Vision 2030 and so we know that it has a strong desire to diversify away from oil and gas and develop a varied economic matrix with services and manufacturing accounting for 60% of GDP. Today, the figure is at 44%, and I must comment on its efforts. For example, in aerospace, Abu Dhabi boasts a repair and overhaul center, and is now setting up its own manufacturing center to produce composite components and parts for Boeing and Airbus. It has established Etihad Airlines and aspires to create an aviation hub, perhaps smaller than that of Dubai. It is also entering the semiconductors segment. Abu Dhabi and Singapore are now creating a joint laboratory to conduct semiconductor research, and both have pledged a total of $21 million over three years to the venture, which is to focus on collaborative research projects in micro-electro-mechanical systems (mems), a type of semiconductor chip intended for next-generation products. It is also venturing into semi-conductors, buying into our global foundry, the $3 billion investment of which is by far Abu Dhabi’s largest into Singapore. Of course, Emiratis are very curious about how we developed our industrial segments and airport, and so at one time our airport group was providing advisory services to the authorities there on the Etihad deal at Abu Dhabi Airport. In infrastructure, manufacturing, and services Emiratis are keen to establish means of working with us. In banking, First Gulf Bank and Emirate NBD are present here, and in terms of banking, we are an Asian financial center. A glance at our geography reveals that we are a seven hour flight away, and we serve two distinctive regions, as a result of which we are both highly competitive and complementary.

What are the opportunities for Singapore businesses and investment in Abu Dhabi?

Over the past few years, we have seen many Singaporean master planning agencies and conceptual design companies go to Abu Dhabi to help plan zones and industrial districts. We are well known for urban and city planning; being a small city-state, we’ve learned from experience that a good blue print allows for sustainable development for decades to come, but that if you lack one, you very soon run into bottlenecks. On the master-planning front, we have many companies providing services there. This also includes areas such as water treatment and waste management, where we have some experience to contribute. Another area is individual building design; for example, we have several companies specialized in building hotels. Similarly, we have architects, and a good example of their success is the Dubai Mall, designed by DP Architects from Singapore. We even have companies in the retail sector. Charles and Keith, for example, is a Singaporean company. It really depends on what Abu Dhabi has to offer, and how open it is in terms of business opportunities.

What were some of the milestones of the 2013 forum?

We have had seven years of meetings thus far, and many success stories have emerged. One of the most productive components of the forum involves individual work groups. For example, the 2013 forum staged a work group on semiconductors, with others on water management, oil and gas, transport and logistics, and urban planning. The whole idea behind combining semiconductors and water management was to seek ways to work together; perhaps Abu Dhabi could borrow some of the experiences we have implemented in Abu Dhabi, or else co-develop some of the technology for export. Ultimately, I think what we have successfully forged with Abu Dhabi is a high level of understanding and trust, and indeed, we are now talking about third-country investments together. For example, much time has recently been devoted to investment opportunities in Southeast Asia, as we are among the top three investors in many countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. In China, we rank among the top five. As a result, our friends from Abu Dhabi agree that we know this region well, and that they want to partner our companies to explore some of these opportunities.

“ We share a strong desire to improve the lives of our people, and to create a better, fairer, and more inclusive society.”

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