Singapore, Jan 29 (PTI) Countries should work together to develop a robust system to verify the authenticity of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday in a special address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021.
More than 1,500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 70 countries took part in the week-long Davos Agenda discussions ending on Friday, which will feed into WEF special annual meeting in May.
During his address chaired by WEF President Borge Brende, Lee said a standardised system was essential to re-open borders and resume international travel, highlighting how countries need to strengthen international cooperation which is essential in tackling the global pandemic.
Lee said globalisation was already under pressure even before COVID-19.
'Confidence in multilateral institutions, rules, and norms was eroding. Populist politics, nativism, nationalism and protectionism were on the rise,' he was quoted as saying by the Straits Times.
If countries are to tackle COVID-19 coherently, international cooperation and multilateral efforts, as well as an international order underpinned by stable great power relations, are critical, Lee said.
He noted that as the pandemic unfolded, countries worked together to restore supply chains, repatriate one another's citizens, and support multilateral vaccine initiatives such as COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax).
As vaccination becomes more widespread, countries can hopefully ease restrictions and economies will rebound after a deep plunge, said the prime minister.
With the pandemic entering a new phase, the governments will have to make hard decisions about unviable businesses and jobs, he said, adding that this in turn will exacerbate existing stresses and place them under more pressure to adopt protectionist and nativist positions.
'To resume growth, we must look beyond returning to status quo ante. We must look ahead,' Lee said.
Lee said that within countries, the governments and businesses have to collaborate to tap new markets and develop novel technologies.
In the longer term, countries should work together to update and strengthen international institutions like the World Trade Organisation, and create new rules to govern and foster novel forms of economic activity, he said.
New e-trade regulations have to be developed to sustain the growth of the digital economy, and facilitate safe, secure and efficient cross border e-payments and data flows. Recent years have witnessed growing friction and distrust among major powers rather than cooperation and confidence building, he said.
The most worrying trend, Lee said, is in US-China relations, which remains the most important bilateral relationship for the world in the years ahead.
Regular constructive dialogue was critical to building a stable international order. The WEF plays an important role in promoting dialogue, as a forum where leaders from countries large and small alike can speak and be heard, he said.
That is why Singapore agreed to host the special annual meeting of the WEF in May, he added.
'Not a decision lightly taken, but we are happy to make a modest contribution to the global discussion,' Lee said. PTI GS MRJ MRJ