Chicago: Asian countries, led by India and China, are emerging “strongly” from the economic downturn, Singapore’s Prime Minister said here, but emphasised that India needs to be more “open” to foreign investments for sustained growth.
Addressing the Chicago Council on Global Affairs here, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong said economies across the globe are rebounding and the world is no longer staring into an “abyss”.
“In Asia, the countries are emerging strongly led by China and India. Asia is on the move and barring a conflict or war, for at least several more decades Asia will continue to grow and develop and uplift the lives of billions of people,” Loong said on 15 April.
Pointing out that India is growing rapidly, Loong said for a sustained growth, the country will require “difficult liberalisation and reforms” as well as massive infrastructure investments.
“India is well placed to be another major growth engine, provided it progressively frees up its economy.
It needs to become more transparent, open and more welcoming of foreign investments and of business in general,” he said, adding the country has an environment many Western firms are more comfortable with.
Loong termed China “a big part of the Asia story” but said it is in Beijing’s interest to show flexibility in its exchange rate.
“Now that the crisis is over, it is really in China’s own interest. to have more flexibility in its exchange rate to avoid a showdown not only with America but with all its global partners,” he added.
While China is “assiduous and skillful in making friends”, it is “firm in defending its national interests,” Loong said, adding that China is still finding the “right tone” to engage the international community.
Terming America’s relation with China “the most important bilateral relation” in the world, Loong said currently the two nations are facing problems, particularly in regard to the exchange rate.
He said it is important for both sides to manage this relation constructively as there is much to lose if they collide with one another but lots to gain if they work with each other.
He further added that for Asia’s growth, it is vital that America has an active trade policy despite the protectionism mood and “lack of appetite in the Congress for free trade”.
“It’s important for Asia to have a balance of players where the interests of all parties, big and small, are taken into account not just for economic reasons but to maintain a balance of power and foster regional security,” Loong said.