CHONGQING - Singapore is working with Chongqing to integrate data exchange and smoothen trade flows as the new trade route that connects western China and South-east Asia takes shape, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
"It's not just about the physical connectivity, it's also about the non-physical dimensions of how we integrate our processes to allow our businesses a much better environment to do their business," said Mr Chan on Tuesday (Jan 8) at the close of a two-day visit to the south-western city of Chongqing.
The new land and sea trade route comprises a network of railway links from western China to the Qinzhou port in southern Guangxi, which further connects to South-east Asia via sea.
It takes about one week to transport goods using this new route instead of three weeks via the Yangtze River and yet the costs are roughly the same.
This trade link extends from the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), the third joint project between China and Singapore that aims to spur the growth of China's less-developed western region.
The project centres around improving transport, financing and data connectivity within the region, as well as between the region and the world.
Mr Chan credited the Chongqing officials for "working very hard" to bring more neighbouring provinces to join the trade network.
Eight western provinces and autonomous regions are now part of the network, including four - Qinghai, Xinjiang, Ningxia and Yunnan - that officially joined on Monday.
"By bringing in more partners, we are able to more rapidly lower the costs of financing, and the costs of logistics. So the more companies join in, the more neighbouring provinces join in, the better it is for us to reduce the costs," Mr Chan told Singapore reporters.
And beyond building a network of hardware in terms of roads and railways, both sides are now working together to integrate the "software" aspects, such as the customs clearance processes.
"All these will require efforts on both sides to make it a seamless environment for our businesses. So I think that kind of integration will bring our bilateral cooperation in this project and elsewhere to a next higher plane," Mr Chan added.
On Tuesday, Mr Chan and Chongqing Mayor Tang Liangzhi co-chaired an implementation meeting for the CCI.
Mr Tang noted that the CCI has seen more than 60 new innovative policy measures implemented, and brought Singapore and Chongqing companies together for some 140 projects with a total investment value of US$21.9 billion.
"The new trade route has surpassed expectations in terms of its demonstrative effects, innovativeness as well as its ability to spur development," said Mr Tang to officials from Chongqing and Singapore as well as representatives from the Chinese Commerce, Foreign Affairs and Industry and Information Technology ministries.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Chan attended a forum to discuss the new trade route.
He urged officials from Asean to consider using the new route to export to the western regions of China as the shortened transport time opens up opportunities for new products, including perishable produce.
Greater regional integration, through the new trade route, will help bring about better quality of life for the people, he added.