CHONGQING - Singapore is working with Chongqing to set up a single electronic window to connect the south-western Chinese city's economy with Singapore through data and information sharing, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing on Thursday (April 12).
Such a platform will make for easier and more efficient customs clearance, which will eventually enable a more seamless flow of goods between China's western regions and South-east Asia.
This will form a logistics chain connecting South-east Asia through Singapore to Chongqing and western China, said Mr Chan in a speech at a seminar in Chongqing organised by Singapore Business Federation for a business delegation from Singapore and Chongqing firms.
This is the latest development in the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), the third government-to-government project between Singapore and China after the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-city.
Launched in November 2015, the CCI is aimed at driving growth of the less-developed western region in China through better transport, financing and data connectivity.
Mr Chan said that in the two to three years since its inception, the initiative has successfully lowered financing costs for businesses in Chongqing, by an average of 0.7 per cent.
It has also opened up a new logistics route - via rail from Chongqing to Guangxi and onward to Singapore by sea.
This new Southern Transport Corridor has cut transportation time down to one week, compared with three weeks needed to ferry goods from Chongqing via river to Shanghai and onward to Singapore by sea.
Mr Chan stressed that the initiative is "not a zero-sum game" and called for more companies to use this new transport route so as to achieve greater economies of scale, which will further lower costs and increase efficiency.
He urged Singapore businessmen to work with the local firms to "fully exploit" the potential of south-western China, which covers two-thirds of the country's vast land area and is home to one-third of the nearly 1.4 billion population.
"If the coastal cities are getting crowded and expensive, this is the place to launch new frontiers for bilateral cooperation," he said.
He added that opportunities for Singapore firms to work with Chinese companies are not just limited to “inward” investments in China, there is also great potential for companies from both countries to bring investments outward to Singapore, South-east Asia and beyond.
Mr Chan also met Chongqing party boss Chen Min'er and mayor Tang Liangzhi on Thursday.
"We agreed that the CCI is making good progress and noted the strong potential to deepen our collaboration to spur progress of the Southern Transport Corridor as part of China's Belt and Road Initiative," Mr Chan said in a statement after the meetings.
At his meeting with Mr Chan, Mr Chen noted that Mr Chan's visit is very timely as it comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met at the Boao Forum for Asia, in Hainan, on Tuesday.
He pointed out that the CCI fits in well with what Mr Xi said about placing strong emphasis on major government projects, and deepening cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
"Mr Xi also mentioned working together on the Southern Transport Corridor... the strategic direction set by leaders of our two countries will be carried out through the CCI project," he added.
Mr Chan is visiting China from Thursday to Saturday. He attended the opening of the Chongqing chapter of Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China on Thursday morning.
On Friday, he will be in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of western Gansu to meet Gansu Governor Tang Renjian to discuss the province's participation in the Southern Transport Corridor.
Four western provinces and city - Chongqing, Gansu, Guangxi and Guizhou - agreed to collaborate on the development of this new transport route last September.
Mr Chan will also meet Sichuan party boss Peng Qinghua in Chengdu after his visit to Gansu.