As the U.S.-China trade war rages, companies are still working together on critical artificial intelligence advances across geographical boundaries, Singapore’s communications minister said.
Businesses and countries need to continue collaborating to drive the development of artificial intelligence, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said Thursday on Bloomberg Television with Haslinda Amin.
“It’s really about finding ways to collaborate in a manner that is seen to be acceptable to all parties, and to advance the cause, because AI has much potential” both for commercial and social welfare purposes, he said.
While the U.S.-China tension has curbed some of that cooperation, Singapore provides a platform where businesses can work together.
“Even with the tensions today, what we are seeing is at the company level, there are partnerships taking place,” Iswaran said. “We see American companies, Chinese companies, European companies focused on this space coming to Singapore.”
The biggest risk of the trade war is a “world where the economy is fragmented, global economy is fragmented and supply chains are fractured,” the minister said.
Heavily reliant on exports, Singapore has continued to prioritize regional and bilateral trade pacts as it monitors the tensions between the U.S. and China, its two largest trading partners. Singapore already is a signatory to two dozen free-trade agreements and is pushing the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to be completed.
RCEP negotiators — from 10 Southeast Asian nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand — are eyeing a tentative deadline of November to close the deal. Talks have been mired in disagreements around how to regulate e-commerce and migration of labor, among other issues.
“We should not pre-judge the outcome in terms of who is involved and who is not, and how we configure it,” Iswaran said of RCEP. “We remain optimistic, but if there are reasons to consider, then at that point I’m sure the RCEP partners will come together and consider the options.”
Here are more comments Iswaran made about artificial intelligence at Bloomberg’s Sooner Than You Think conference in Singapore on Thursday:
“Where I think Singapore differentiates itself is first, the fact that we are able to organize different parties to come together in a manner that’s focused and efficient,” whereas in other constituencies the entities are “a bit more disparate”
“We need the private sector also to step up, and explain how it can address those concerns of governments” around data protection
“We have to be pragmatic about this,” he said of technology regulation; the fast pace of technological change means public-private collaboration is even more important
“Somewhere between dystopia and utopia, there’s a place for us. And we can find that path”
Every technological change has meant existing work practices being enhanced, some being eliminated, and others being created; “we’re at the beginning of this revolution”