BEIJING - Singapore and Shandong have agreed to work towards increasing trade and investments in the three areas of food products, modern services, and energy, Senior Minister of State for Communications & Information and Health Chee Hong Tat said on Sunday (Dec 10), following a four-day trip to the province.
The two sides will also look at furthering cooperation under China's Belt and Road Initiative, including using Singapore companies' expertise to help Shandong firms expand into South-east Asia.
Mr Chee is the newly appointed co-chairman of the Singapore Shandong Business Council (SSBC), taking over from former Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck in July.
During his visit to Shandong, which ended on Saturday, Mr Chee met Shandong vice-governor Ren Airong, co-chair of the SSBC, as well as Shandong Governor Gong Zheng, Jinan Mayor Wang Zhonglin and Qingdao Mayor Meng Fanli. The Singapore delegation also comprised other government officials and business leaders.
Mr Chee said Ms Ren expressed interest in exploring ways for Singapore and Shandong to expand cooperation in the food sector, which is a major industry for Shandong, beginning with the mutual recognition of standards.
Such agreements will open the door for more two-way trade in food products, both from China into South-east Asia through Singapore and vice versa, said Mr Chee.
"We are looking at, for a start, the possibility of mutual recognition of our food safety and food control standards," he said. "And later on, how do we promote more trade in food, whether it's original ingredients or processed food products."
Rising incomes and a growing Chinese middle class mean more opportunities for Singapore businesses to offer higher quality services, whether in healthcare, education, logistics or retail, he added. For instance, early childhood education provider Cherie Hearts is "growing quite fast" not only in Shandong but across China.
Shandong's GDP of S$1.35 trillion last year makes it the third-richest province in China, after Guangdong and Jiangsu.
As home to some of China's biggest oilfields and petrochemical companies, there are also more areas of potential cooperation in the energy sector, said Mr Chee.
"We are exploring opportunities for our companies to go over and do infrastructure development in this area, and for their companies to come to Singapore to do trading, using Singapore as a regional hub," he said.
A major milestone in Singapore-Shandong cooperation is also around the corner. The SSBC, which was the first bilateral business council formed between Singapore and a Chinese province, will hold its 20th meeting in Shandong next year.
"It's a milestone for us to consolidate what we have achieved so far and also to look ahead and see how we can enhance the collaboration to go further," said Mr Chee.
The Republic is Shandong's third-largest foreign investor, with Singapore firms having invested more than $13 billion in the province since the SSBC was formed in 1993, said IE Singapore. Bilateral trade last year was 18.47 billion yuan (S$3.77 billion), a dip from 2015, when it was 21.16 billion yuan.