The Wholesale Trade Industry Transformation Map (ITM) was unveiled today by Mr. S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) at International Enterprise (IE) Singapore’s event, “Digitalisation of Trade – New Mindsets, New Skillsets”. The ITM will help companies digitalise to enhance global growth and productivity, and targets to create 10,000 new jobs by 2020. Comprising over 34,000 firms, the wholesale trade industry provides livelihoods for more than 325,000, accounting for 9% of Singapore’s workforce in 2016.
In 2016, wholesale trade contributed S$47.3 billion (12%) to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). The industry continues to grow strongly as Asia’s rising population, urbanisation and consumerism drive trade flows to meet the region’s increased demand for food, infrastructure materials, fuel and electronics, and more.
However, wholesale trade is highly susceptible to global trends such as rising protectionism as it is an externally-oriented sector. Technological advancements are also transforming the global marketplace, business models and job functions.
The Wholesale Trade ITM has been developed in collaboration with a wide range of key stakeholders, covering industry players, trade unions, trade associations and government agencies. The key strategies are described below.
Image credit: IE Singapore
Building trade connectivity through digital marketplaces and platforms
Digital business-to-business (B2B) e-Commerce transactions are expected to reach US$6.7 trillion by 2020. The ITM includes plans to accelerate global trade connectivity, facilitating and capturing value from e-commerce trade flows, as well as increasing SMEs’ market access and productivity through digital marketplaces and platforms.
Key initiatives in this area include the ASEAN Digital Trade Facilitation Platform and a Cross Border Cognitive Supply Chain Solution. The former, led by Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) and in partnership with GeTS Global (Global e-Trade Services) is expected to be ready in Q4 2017. It will foster collaboration among ASEAN logistics associations and facilitate customs clearance through a single window and allow easier and more efficient movement of goods across regional borders.
The collaboration agreement for the Cross Border Cognitive Supply Chain Solution was signed at the ITM launch event today. It is a digital trade platform by GeTS Global and IBM Asia Pacific and enables 350,000 connected trading partners on IBM's Supply Chain Business Network (SCBN) to do automated customs declaration at 18 customs nodes across the world, including Singapore, China, Indonesia, Thailand and the US. It is equipped with cognitive capabilities and predictive analytics to help traders mitigate disruptions, risks and costs. For instance, in bad weather conditions, it will recommend an alternative source for the obtaining of goods and alternative routes for shipment to ensure timely delivery.
Traders can also look forward to the National Trade Platform in 2018, when freight management and trade financing services will be integrated as part of the platform from Singapore Customs to improve cross-border trade processes.
The last initiative in the digital platforms area is to work with trade associations and private enterprises to help SMEs list on digital marketplaces, enabling them to access new markets and enjoy economies of scale through shared services.
Strengthening enterprise capabilities and growing a vibrant ecosystem of wholesale trading enterprises in Singapore
A new government agency, named Enterprise Singapore, will be formed through the merger of IE Singapore and SPRING. Leveraging IE Singapore’s core strengths in internationalisation and SPRING’s expertise and levers in helping SMEs, the newly-formed agency will offer companies a holistic and integrated network to build capabilities and access overseas markets opportunities. Going forward, Enterprise Singapore will be the lead agency driving the transformation of the wholesale trade industry.
Developing industry-ready talent equipped with deep skills for digitalisation and internationalisation.
The ITM foresees a demand for specialised talent with digital skillsets such as digital marketing, global supply chain and data analytics will grow as companies address new business models. The range of roles with greater demand include Digital Marketers, Data Analysts, Regional Business Development Managers, Risk & Compliance Officers and Supply Chain Specialists.
There are ongoing partnerships with Workforce Singapore (WSG), National Trade Union Congress, Institutes of Higher Learning and industry players to identify job opportunities and prepare PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) and students for careers in wholesale trade. The Wholesale Trade ITM skills framework, to be completed by the second-half of 2018, will provide industry-validated insights into the skillsets required for the future of trade.
IE Singapore and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today to develop a Certificate/Minor Programme in International Trade, covering areas such as digitalisation, analytics and regional cultural intelligence.
IE Singapore, WSG and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) signed another MOU at the ITM launch to develop a Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) to nurture a pipeline of talent with regional market knowledge.
IE Singapore, WSG, the Singapore Management University (SMU) and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Academy launched a PCP for International Trading Executives in 2016. SMU is working towards a target of 100 PMET placements per year and will incorporate more digitalisation relevant modules for future runs.
IE Singapore and Ngee Ann Polytechnic signed an MOU at the ITM launch to jointly develop a Diploma programme in International Trade & Business. The first wholesale trade-related diploma programme in Singapore, it will incorporate modules on digital business solutions and analytics. The first intake, estimated to enrol 120 students, will begin in April 2018.
 Roadmaps are being developed for 23 industries to address issues within each industry and deepen partnerships between Government, firms, industries, trade associations and chambers. The ITMs are grouped into 6 broad cluster: Manufacturing, Built environment, Trade & connectivity, Essential Domestic Services, Modern services and Lifestyle.