China and Singapore have agreed to "move expeditiously" to launch a third government-to-government project that could be a flagship project for China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said.
Building on the excellent cooperation the two countries have enjoyed so far, "and meeting China's desire to develop its western region and to accelerate its westward opening", the two sides agreed to move purposefully to get the project off the ground, Mr Wang told a press briefing after meeting his Singapore counterpart, Mr K. Shanmugam.
China's less developed western region is a key area for the overland portion of China's ambitious initiative to spur development along a continental route and a maritime route that links 65 countries.
The project comes after the Suzhou Industrial Park, begun in 1994, which helped China to attract foreign investment, and the 2008 Tianjin Eco-City project that served China's need to transform and upgrade its economy, Mr Wang noted.
Separately, Mr Shanmugam told Singapore media that a lot of work is being done on the third project and that "we hope later this year we will have moved a little bit further from where we are today".
"It is something that is of deep importance to China and us and we want it to succeed," he added.
Mr Shanmugam also noted the two countries were working to upgrade a free trade agreement (FTA) signed in 2008, adding: "We want a high-quality agreement."
Concurring, Mr Wang said that while the current FTA had brought great benefits to both sides, "the situation has been evolving and both sides feel that we need to raise the level of the FTA".
A joint scoping study is being conducted on the FTA upgrade, said a statement from the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday.
Mr Shanmugam also told reporters that the Chinese have expressed an interest in taking part in the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail that is being planned and that he told Mr Wang there would be a tender for the project in due course.
The two top diplomats also discussed the possibility of cooperation for the purpose of assisting third countries "and we welcomed that proposal", he added.
With both countries marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties this year, there has been a flurry of activities, including a state visit by President Tony Tan Keng Yam to China just over a month ago, and a reciprocal visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping later this year. Chinese Vice- President Li Yuanchao will be attending Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations this week, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
Goh Sui Noi