Chongqing initiative could be highlight of cooperation: Xi Jinping

PM Lee and President Xi, and their respective delegations, meeting for bilateral talks at the West Lake State Guesthouse yesterday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders' summit.
PM Lee and President Xi, and their respective delegations, meeting for bilateral talks at the West Lake State Guesthouse yesterday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders' summit.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Singapore could also play key role in China's new free trade zones, he tells PM Lee

China values Singapore's keenness in developing the "One Belt, One Road" initiative and is willing to make the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI) the new highlight of bilateral cooperation, President Xi Jinping told Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Mr Xi also said both sides should work on raising quality and standards in the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-City, two government-led projects launched in 1994 and 2008 respectively.

Cooperation should also be deepened in areas such as finance, cyberspace, information and communication technology (ICT), social governance, law and order, counter-terrorism, and anti-corruption, Mr Xi added at the meeting held on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders' summit.

A Prime Minister's Office (PMO) statement said Mr Xi told Mr Lee that Singapore could play a useful role in China's newly established free trade zones (FTZs), which include Chongqing municipality.

China on Wednesday announced seven new FTZs, bringing the total number to 11. The other six are in Liaoning, Zhejiang, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces.

 
 

The first FTZ was set up in 2013 in Shanghai to test-bed economic reforms such as more relaxed rules towards foreign investment. A second batch of FTZs was set up in late 2014 in Fujian and Guangdong provinces, as well as Tianjin municipality.

The PMO said the two leaders had noted that officials have been working on upgrading the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, after both sides agreed to do so during Mr Xi's visit to Singapore in November.

Mr Lee said two rounds of discussions on the FTA upgrade have been held and a third is being planned, with the aim of concluding talks by this year. The current pact, which was inked in October 2008 and came into effect in January 2009, was the first comprehensive bilateral FTA that China signed with another Asian country.

The two leaders were also pleased with the good progress of the CCI, particularly in the areas of financial services and aviation connectivity, said the PMO.

Giving updates on the CCI on Thursday to Singapore reporters, Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the PMO, said deals worth more than US$6 billion (S$8.2 billion) have been inked as of July.

Direct flights between Singapore and Chongqing, which have increased from five to 14 per week, will reach 17 per week this month, added Mr Chan, who is Singapore's point man on the CCI, which was launched last November.

A "digital super highway" that will provide high-speed connectivity between Singapore and Chongqing and help build up the latter's ICT infrastructure and a new digital and sharing economy is also in the pipeline.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline 'Chongqing initiative could be highlight of cooperation: Xi'. Print Edition | Subscribe