BILATERAL trade between Singapore and Latin America hit $37.9 billion last year - 3.8 per cent of Singapore's total trade - and the figure is expected to increase this year on the back of more free trade agreements, according to the Foreign Minister yesterday.
Mr K. Shanmugam told the Latin American Investment Summit that Singapore was a natural partner for the region due to its regional links, strategic location, socio-political stability, global competitiveness and well-educated workforce.
He also noted that cross-border commerce with Latin America would not be possible without Singapore's integration into the global legal market.
Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, pointed to Singapore's reputation as a pre-eminent arbitral institution in the region.
Citing a 2010 White & Case International Arbitration Survey that ranked the country the 'most popular Asian seat', Mr Shanmugam said: 'Singapore is now recognised as the leading international arbitration hub in Asia.'
He added that this was due to the business- friendly environment, a legislative framework which incorporates sound international practices and a neutral judiciary which embraces the spirit of arbitration.
Mr G. Jayakrishnan, Americas group director of trade agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, added that Latin America presented a myriad of opportunities for Singapore companies, due to its huge domestic market and the fact that it had the 'highest rate of urbanisation in the world'.
But investment there brings its share of challenges, as Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, senior director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted.
'The first is an external shock, coming from a global slowdown which could potentially affect... the very positive trajectory which has been made so far by Latin American markets,' he said.
'The second challenge is an internal one - the challenge of building infrastructure.'
Mr Gafoor added that there is 'considerable scope for improvement' for Latin America's 'education infrastructure'.
'(But) there is tremendous potential for countries in Asia, in Latin America and for Singapore to share and exchange ideas in terms of strengthening their infrastructure and learning from the experience of Latin America.'
The investment summit was organised by law firm Duane Morris & Selvam in partnership with IE Singapore.
-- Straits Times