I WAS proud and gratified that Singapore, an impoverished economy just 50 years ago, and a strong advocate of world free trade ever since, fittingly hosted the 20th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit as a First World country.
At the summit, it was like one big happy family sitting down and playing the popular card game Happy Families.
To move forward and make progress, each family member needs to obtain from a fellow member cards he does not have, in exchange for his cards he does not need. In the process, all parties benefit, so they are encouraged to play again.
Apec is a shining example of what can be achieved by world leaders, given the dare, the resolve, the commitment and the belief that economic cooperation and free and freer trade, not protectionism, are the path to recovery from the economic downturn, and to prosperity.
It was magical to see leaders from four of the most powerful world economies - United States President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - stand shoulder to shoulder with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the same room, as they deliberated, chatted freely, moving the region to freer trade. And I hope, they will be the catalyst for the rest of the world to move in the same direction.
Just about every enabler for economic growth and cooperation was addressed in one way or another - boosting domestic demand, balancing short-term pressure with long-term economic stability and infrastructure building, climate change, combating money laundering, fiscal strategies, and regulatory frameworks conducive to support private enterprise, investments and innovation.
Better governance, including and especially ensuring transparency and preventing corruption (a scourge of economic growth), as mentioned briefly by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Mr Medvedev respectively, deserve greater attention than mere lip service.
Perhaps this can be a key topic, which Singapore, given its exemplary track record, will have much to share, the next time Apec leaders play Happy Families again in Yokohama, Japan in November next year.
The original letter was published in the Straits Times on November 17, 2009.