Turkey and Singapore have the potential to cooperate and share experiences on smart cities and enhance their trade capacity, Sim Ann, Singapore's senior minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Development who oversees the Municipal Services Office, highlighted.
Speaking to Daily Sabah in an exclusive interview, Ann said, “We believe that there are ample opportunities for Singapore and Turkish cities to share best practices in such urban solutions and forge partnerships to better the lives for our respective populations.”
Singapore has significant experience with smart cities, especially in the area of technology, smart urban mobility solutions and digitalizing health care services, to improve livability and sustainability for their residents – an area in which know-how and practice could be shared with Turkey.
Ann said that like many big Turkish cities, Singapore is a highly urbanized metropolitan city and faces similar challenges in a quest to create livable, resilient and sustainable cities.
“Turkish cities, within their own unique context, have made impressive strides to enhance the quality of living for its residents. Singapore believes that urban living must be coupled with sustainability,” the minister said.
She gave the example of the Punggol Digital District that is being developed and will be the first digital district in Singapore with a fully integrated digital structure that utilizes smart technologies. Through a digital system, the Open Digital Platform, which will integrate various smart city technologies including facilities management, security, district cooling systems and autonomous goods delivery systems within the district, will enhance the quality of life and optimize energy efficiency in urban planning.
The Punggol Digital District aims to combine the use of smart energy grids with emerging technologies to improve workflow processes and increase the liveability of urban spaces, Ann explained. “The objectives are to contribute to sustainable development by employing a smart grid that distributes green energy, harnesses the potential of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence to improve residents’ standard of living and encourage innovation by allowing participants to ringfence and test solutions within a controlled environment,” she outlined.
Bilateral trade has continued to grow despite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ann pointed out, announcing that bilateral trade in 2021 reached its highest ever level, with an almost 50% year-over-year increase to hit $1.71 billion.
Underlining that Turkey is an important and valued trading partner for Singapore, she also highlighted that bilateral trade is equally balanced between the two countries, with mutual benefit to both countries.
Turkey and Singapore have signed two important agreements, the Turkey-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (TRSFTA) concluded in 2015 and the Singapore-Turkey Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) of 2001. Ann elaborated that the TRSFTA is one of Turkey’s most comprehensive FTAs that includes newer economic pillars such as intellectual property rights and e-commerce, giving Turkish companies preferential access to Singapore’s markets by granting immediate duty-free access to all imports from Turkey.
Speaking on the sectors in which the two countries mainly collaborate, she said that the metals and machinery sectors stand out primarily, while Turkish companies operating in this sector could venture in to Singapore’s developing the advanced manufacturing sector. According to the minister, Singapore is aspiring to become a regional hub for advanced manufacturing technologies with the government implementing initiatives to encourage companies to move toward high-tech machinery.
“One initiative is the Jurong Innovation District (JID), which is a sandbox for manufacturers and entrepreneurs to share ideas and innovate by exploring different stages of the manufacturing process. I believe that Turkish businesses can not only take advantage of the FTA and DTA but also ongoing initiatives like JID to venture in to Singapore’s growing advanced manufacturing sector,” she highlighted.
Ann further mentioned that Singapore is actively growing its financial subsectors despite the pandemic and added: “It is exciting to see that Singapore and Turkey are like-minded and want to encourage the digitalization of our economies. For example, Turkey’s aim to transition to a cashless economy by 2023 presents opportunities for joint ventures between our companies.”
She elaborated that the two countries can work together to spur innovation and create frontier technologies. “Some recent examples of successful Singapore fintech collaborations include Huntington Partners, which worked with and invested in the Turkish financial risk scoring technology firm SkorVeri, Razer Gold, the FinTech product of Razer, which provides its technology solution for the Turkish gaming industry, and Pundi X partnering with Ovo Digital Services to roll out physical cryptocurrency exchange offices in Turkey.
Another area of focus for Singapore is e-commerce and the digital economy.
“There is good potential for Turkish companies to use Singapore as a base to export consumer goods to the Southeast Asia markets,” Ann said, giving the example of Turkish fashionwear online portal, Modanisa, which partnered with a Singapore logistics company, Janio, to expand their operations in ASEAN.
“There are also examples where Turkish e-commerce platforms work with Singapore technology providers to improve customer experience, such as Hepsiburada integrating Visenze technology for the visual search feature on its application and Trendyol launching the in-app live shopping platform powered by Singapore’s BeLive Technology,” she noted.
With the aim of improving ties with Asian countries in different areas, Turkey in 2019 launched the Asia Anew initiative.
The initiative offers a new vision that might shape the future of Turkish foreign policy as a whole. It aims to improve ties with Asian countries in various areas, including education, the defense industry, investments, trade, technology, culture and political dialogue.
Turkey considers ASEAN a key organization in the region, considering its combined economy, dynamic population and strategic location. Turkey applied to become a sectoral dialogue partner for ASEAN in 2015 and its application was accepted on Aug. 5, 2017, during the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting held in the Philippines.
“As a conduit to Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific, Singapore serves as a base from which Turkish companies could build consumer insight and deepen their presence in the region,” Ann underlined, saying that Singapore’s strategic location as a maritime hub located in the heart of Southeast Asia grants companies access to nine other Southeast Asian states with a total population of 661 million and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.7 trillion.
“This ties in nicely with supporting Turkey’s Asia Anew Initiative,” she said.
Ann elaborated that the expanding middle class with higher purchasing power provides opportunities for Turkish businesses seeking to expand their operations. There may be demand for Turkish apparel, textiles, metal fabricated components and transport equipment. She also mentioned the sector of halal food and cosmetics products, as over 40% of Southeast Asians identify as Muslims, as areas with further potential and said that Turkish companies are well-positioned to answer this demand in that regard.
“I am confident that Turkish products will have a comparative advantage and be well-positioned to break into the wider Asian market,” Ann concluded.