BOAO, HAINAN - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese President Xi Jinping both expressed support for an open global trading order during their meeting on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia on Tuesday (April 10).
The rules-based multilateral trading system has benefited countries big and small.
The two leaders also agreed that any trade dispute should be resolved within the World Trade Organisation framework, said a statement by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Earlier on Tuesday, PM Lee delivered a speech at the Boao conference on trade tensions between China and the United States, and why China should uphold openness and multilateralism.
At the meeting with Mr Xi, the Chinese leader said he welcomed PM Lee's speech.
"PM Lee stressed that if unilateral and tit-for-tat actions escalated into trade wars, the multilateral trading system that had brought prosperity to other countries for decades would be severely undermined," said the PMO.
Both leaders reaffirmed the "special and forward-looking relationship between the two countries" based on the foundation laid by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.
They also welcomed the success of the three government-to-government projects, namely, the Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-City and Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.
Mr Xi mentioned his intention to elevate the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City to a state-level project, which was welcomed by PM Lee, said the PMO.
The two leaders reviewed the progress made under the various bilateral platforms, and said they looked forward to the conclusion of the Singapore-China Free Trade Agreement upgrade negotiations this year.
"They also welcomed the improved situation in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the steady progress made in the negotiation of the code of conduct," said the PMO.
PM Lee congratulated Mr Xi on the successful conclusion of China's 19th Party Congress last year and the recent "lianghui", or legislative meetings, which saw Mr Xi reappointed as President.
"You have set directions for China to play a constructive and stabilising role in the region and in the international system," PM Lee said, adding that Mr Xi has laid out a clear vision and long-term goals for China.
Mr Xi thanked PM Lee and said that since their last meeting in September, both countries have "consolidated their longstanding friendship".
"Your visit to China again and attendance at the Boao Forum demonstrates the importance you attach to China-Singapore relations," Mr Xi said. He added he was willing to work with PM Lee to exchange views on bilateral ties and common concerns.
In his opening remarks, PM Lee noted that with a fresh team of leaders at the helm in China, and with Singapore also in a period of leadership transition, this was a "timely meeting for us to take our partnership forward".
"I brought along several of my younger ministers, my younger colleagues, on the trip, in order to establish ties with their counterparts and be able to bring our relations further forward," he said.
PM Lee is on a five-day working visit in China. The ministers accompanying him are Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.
The Singapore delegation left Boao on Tuesday evening for Shanghai, the final leg of its visit. It is due to return to Singapore on Thursday.