More needs to be done to attract users to the new land and sea trade corridor that connects western China to South-east Asia, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
"Coordination among the western provinces in China is key as we work towards the common vision of enhancing trade flows and achieving greater regional integration," he said in an e-mail interview with Chongqing Daily published today.
Mr Chan said while good progress has been made in linking railway networks in western China to the Qinzhou port in southern Guangxi - which connects to South-east Asia via sea - more effort is needed to boost cargo volumes to further lower costs.
This new trade link offers a faster alternative to transport goods between western China and international destinations compared with the conventional route via the Yangtze River.
It extends from the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), which is the third joint project between China and Singapore that aims to spur the growth of China's less-developed western region through better transport, financing and data connectivity.
Mr Chan listed three areas that need further work to make the new trade route more attractive to potential users. First is to enhance the trade corridor's "hardware", particularly the last-mile connectivity, he said.
Currently, cargo is transferred from trains to ships via trucks, which slows down the process.
Mr Chan said it is "critical" that the rail lines are extended all the way to the Qinzhou Port so that cargo can be transferred directly from train to ship.
Second, inspection processes across different provincial borders and different transport modes should be streamlined.
Third, there should be ways to exchange trade information electronically ahead of time so that cargo can be cleared and released immediately upon arrival at the port.
Mr Chan, in the interview, said more than 40 Singapore companies took part in the inaugural International Smart China Expo in Chongqing last year.
He called the expo a "new highlight" in the information and communications technology collaborations between the two sides, and said more can also be done to deepen data connectivity.
This includes encouraging Singapore companies to tap the innovation centre for small and medium-sized information, communication and media enterprises to take part in related projects in Chongqing.
Mr Chan is in Chongqing on a two-day visit.
He is accompanied by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min and senior officials from Enterprise Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Singapore Customs.