Opportunities in trade, professional services in Singapore-Jiangsu collaboration

Finance minister Heng Swee Keat (middle, yellow tie) at an event commemorating the extension of BLOCK71 into Suzhou, China yesterday (Nov 23). From left to right: Mr Aylwin Tan, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Ascendas-Singbridge; Mr Fang Wei, Deputy Secretary-General of Jiangsu Province; Mr Chen Zhenning, Vice Governor of Jiangsu Province; Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance; Dr Koh Poh Koon, Singapore Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade & Industry and Ministry of National Development; Mr Stanley Loh, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the People’s Republic of China; and Dr Lily Chan, CEO, NUS Enterprise. PHOTO: IE SINGAPORE
Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat and Jiangsu Governor Wu Zhenglong at a courtesy call before the Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council meeting on Thursday (Nov 23) in Suzhou, China. PHOTO: IE SINGAPORE

BEIJING - Singapore firms that know the region well stand to gain from the city state's close cooperation with Jiangsu, especially as more Chinese firms are going international, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has said.

With the coastal province tapping on China's Belt and Road Initiative to link itself up with the rest of Asia and Europe, Singapore and Jiangsu have a valuable role to play in the resulting international collaborations, Mr Heng said at the Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council (SJCC) meeting on Thursday (Nov 23).

"The Belt and Road Initiative will drive trade and economic cooperation, and catalyse the internationalisation of Chinese enterprises," said Mr Heng.

"This brings potential for us to increase trade flows, and for Singapore and Jiangsu enterprises to jointly expand into South-east Asia."

The SJCC is one of seven bilateral councils that Singapore has established with provinces in China. The rest are with Shandong, Sichuan, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Tianjin and Guangdong.

Opportunities for Singapore firms include providing professional services such as corporate secretarial services, and urban renewal projects as Jiangsu looks to developing its suburbs and tapping its cultural and historical assets, while preserving them.

Singapore firms already riding this wave include Global eTrade Services (GeTS), a subsidiary of e-government solutions provider CrimsonLogic. Its collaboration with Suzhou Industrial Park's (SIP) Single Trade Window helps both Singapore and Suzhou exporters and importers map their trade declaration data more accurately to the counterpart country's declaration requirements, saving time and money.

"Our Singapore professional services companies and organisations, such as the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and our Singapore banks, can also complement these enterprises' overseas aspirations," said Mr Heng.

"Together, we can make the most of one another's strengths, bring value to the region, and go further together."

There is also room for technology partnerships as both Singapore and Jiangsu place great focus on innovation as well as research and development as growth drivers, he added.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and its entrepreneurial arm on Thursday opened its first Block71 start-up hub in SIP, its first Block71 development in China. A second location is scheduled to open next year.

The new incubator leverages the success of the NUS (Suzhou) Research Institute (NUSRI), the university's first overseas research institute, and business space solutions provider Ascendas-Singbridge.

Block71 Suzhou will support Singapore entrepreneurs and tech start-ups looking to expand into China, such as by helping them access new markets by leveraging the three partners' global networks and resources.

There are now four Block71 innovation hothouses around the world, including one in Jakarta.

Jiangsu is the top provincial investment destination for Singapore companies in China, with Singapore-Jiangsu trade currently accounting for about 10 per cent of Singapore-China trade.

Singapore's cumulative investments in Jiangsu is more than US$27 billion (S$36 billion) as of end-September this year (2017). China is Singapore's largest trading partner for the fourth consecutive year, with bilateral trade of S$117.2 billion in 2016.

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