By Gaurav Raghuvanshi

SINGAPORE--Singapore should counter a global wave of protectionism by deepening ties with its international partners and seek new opportunities to sustain economic growth, a government-appointed panel said Thursday.

"Singapore must continue to work with like-minded partners to advance the liberalization of trade and investment," a report by the Committee on the Future Economy said, noting a "dark shift in mood away from globalization in 2016."

The report highlighted growing nativist politics and protectionist economics in Europe and the U.S., reflecting Singapore's concerns over its key export markets.

The 30-member committee, formed in January last year, comprises Singapore's main economic ministers as well as industry leaders. The report is expected to serve as a guide for the government's economic policies.

Last month, President Donald Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement heavily promoted by Singapore, where two-thirds of GDP is generated by external demand.

The committee, led by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran, said workers here must acquire and nurture deep skills to stay relevant.

"We need to go beyond the pursuit of the highest possible academic qualifications early in life to focus on acquiring and using knowledge and skills throughout our lives," the 109-page document said.

Since 2010, Singapore has sought to focus on boosting productivity following a similar review of the economy. Despite sluggish productivity growth globally, Singapore's workforce improved its output by 2.5% per annum between 2009 and 2016, the report said. Unemployment has stayed low at around 3% and the median wage has grown by 2.6% a year over the period, it said.

The report also underscored Singapore's push for stronger external connectivity. A new Terminal 4 at Singapore's Changi Airport will open later this year and construction has already started on the fifth terminal, which will double capacity at the nation's airport.

A new port is being constructed on the island's west side and a high-speed rail line will be built to connect Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

The report said Singapore must also be digitally connected, advising the government to build on its position as one of the world's most digitally connected cities.

Among seven strategies, the report recommended deeper partnership between the government and the private sector and more industry-specific platforms with integrated planning and implementation.

Write to Gaurav Raghuvanshi at gaurav.raghuvanshi@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 09, 2017 00:22 ET (05:22 GMT)

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