EU – Singapore Think Tank Dialogue 2021

Strengthening Multilateralism: Opportunities for EU-Singapore Cooperation

The goal of the EU – Singapore Think Tank Dialogue 2021 is to explore the challenges and opportunities for cooperation between the European Union (EU) and Singapore to strengthen multilateralism. The Dialogue is co-organised by the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore (ISEAS), Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), and Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP).

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Multilateralism – broadly understood as a form of institutionalized interaction between several states to achieve agreed-upon goal(s) – is an essential tool and process of global political and economic cooperation. Ideally, the number of states involved should be as large as possible. The relevance of the current multilateral system, which dates to the post-WWII period, is increasingly being challenged by shifts in economic and political power, both domestically and internationally. There is concern that both multilateralism and a liberal rules-based order has been weakened in an increasingly multi-polar world, in which some players no longer share the same goals or values and challenge existing rules and institutions. Paradoxically, this has taken place as multilateralism has become more important in many policy areas, with countries becoming more interconnected and interdependent. On-going challenges such as the climate crisis and the global health challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic have demonstrated this. There is a need to strengthen the process and institutions of multilateralism and global cooperation, in particular for small states which are otherwise not in a position to exercise any influence.

Recognising these challenges, on 18 February 2021 the EU put forward a set of policy proposals to strengthen its contribution to rules-based multilateralism. The Joint Communication lays out the EU’s expectations of and ambitions for the multilateral system. The Dialogue provides a unique opportunity to explore these challenges in the context of EU-Singapore relations.


This two-day Dialogue will be delivered online entirely. You can join the Dialogue at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

Receive your unique link for joining the following webinars in the registration links listed below. Limited spaces only, register early to avoid disappointment.

Install the Zoom client onto your computer or download the app on your mobile device.

If you have questions for the speakers, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session. 

Day 1 Session

Tuesday, 11 May 2021
2.00 pm – 4.50 pm (Singapore time) / 8.00 am – 10.50 am (Central European Time)

Register here.

Opening Remarks2:00-2:10 PM SGT / 8:00-8:10 AM CET

Keynote Speech 12:10 – 2:40 PM SGT / 8:10 – 8:40 AM CET

Panel 1 — 2:40 – 3:40 PM SGT/ 8:40 – 9:40 AM CET
“Understanding Multilateralism and opportunities for EU, Singapore and ASEAN collaboration” dwells on the concepts and definitions of multilateralism. It addresses the need to survey the various competing definitions and ideas of multilateralism to foster mutual understanding. This is a necessary first step towards exploring opportunities and limitations for multilateral cooperation between the EU, Singapore and other ASEAN member states.

Coffee/Tea Break 3:40 – 3:50 PM SGT/ 9:40 – 9:50 AM CET

Panel 2 — 3:50 – 4:50 PM SGT / 9:50 – 10:50 AM CET
“New Ambitions for the United Nations and the role of the EU, Singapore and ASEAN” focuses on some of the key challenges currently facing the United Nations (UN). It explores the various avenues for cooperation between the EU and Singapore and other ASEAN member states in improving and reforming the UN system.

Opening Remarks

Keynote Speech


H.E. Ambassador Barbara Plinkert
Ambassador of the EU to Singapore
Mr Choi Shing Kwok
Director and CEO of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
H.E. Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon
Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia
Dr Malcolm Cook
Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

Panel 1 Speakers


Professor Hanns Maull
Senior Distinguished Fellow, SWP
H.E. Ambassador Lawrence Anderson
Director, Communications Department, Asia-Europe Foundation
H.E. Dr Marty Natalegawa
Former Foreign Minister of Indonesia
Mr John Seaman
Research Fellow, Center for Asian Studies, IFRI

Panel 2 Speakers


Dr Judith Vorrath
Senior Associate, SWP
Professor K.S. Jomo
Senior Advisor, Khazanah Research Institute
Dr Reuben Wong
Academic Director of Global Relations Office, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science &
Resident Fellow at the College of Alice & Peter, National University of Singapore
Dr Felix Heiduk
Senior Associate, Asia Research Division, SWP

Day 2 Session

Wednesday, 12 May 2021
2.00 pm – 4.45 pm (Singapore time) / 8.00 am -10.45 am (Central European Time)

Register here.

Keynote Speech 22:00 – 2:30 PM SGT / 8:00 – 8:30 AM CET

Panel 3 — 2:30 – 3:30 PM SGT / 8:30 – 9:30 AM CET
“Can the WTO Accommodate 21st Century Challenges? Perspectives from the EU, Singapore and ASEAN” examines how the World Trade Organization (WTO) should reform – from the EU’s, Singapore’s and ASEAN’s perspective – to reflect new trade and geo-political realities. It will explore how to restore a fully functioning WTO dispute settlement with a reformed Appellate Body and possibly find new paths for an innovative trade dispute settlement mechanism. It also seeks to assess the extent to which recent bilateral and regional trade agreements are WTO compliant and support the multilateral system.

Coffee/Tea Break 3:30 – 3:40 PM SGT/ 9:30 – 9:40AM CET

Panel 4 3:40 – 4:40 PM SGT / 9:40-10:40 AM CET
“New Vision for Multilateral Development Banks – an outlook from the EU, Singapore and ASEAN perspective” will trace the evolution of multilateral development banks (MDBs) and similar institutions with the view to evaluating how their roles and influence have changed over time. It will also assess the extent to which these institutions complement and compete with each other. It will also reflect on the challenges of a renewed momentum for MDB reforms from the perspective of ASEAN-EU cooperation.

Closing Remarks — 4:40 – 4:45 PM SGT / 10:40 – 10:45 AM CET

Keynote Speech


Mr Ignacio Garcia Bercero
Director in charge of Multilateral Affairs, Strategy and Economic Analysis at the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission
Dr Francoise Nicolas
Director, Center for Asian Studies, IFRI

Panel 3 Speakers


Ms Iana Dreyer
Founder editor of
Dr Deborah Elms
Executive Director, Asian Trade Centre
Tan Sri Datuk Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria
Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Professor Tham Siew Yean
Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

Panel 4 Speakers


Professor Pierre Jacquet
President of the Global Development Network
Dr Jayant Menon
Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Dr Thomas Mirow
Former President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Dr Eric J. Ballbach
Visiting Fellow / Korea Foundation Fellow, Asia Research Division, SWP