ZHOUSHAN, ZHEJIANG - Singapore will work with China’s eastern Zhejiang province, home of e-commerce giant Alibaba, to explore opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative and deepen cooperation in areas like innovation and urban solutions.
These include encouraging more Chinese e-commerce, logistics and technology firms to tap Singapore companies’ network and experiences in South-east Asia to jointly expand in the region, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann on Thursday (April 26).
She also urged Zhejiang companies to use Singapore as their regional headquarters and raise funds for projects in the Belt and Road countries.
Launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is a strategic and economic project to link China with Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe with roads, railways, ports and industrial parks.
Ms Sim, who co-chairs the Singapore-Zhejiang Economic and Trade Council (SZETC), was speaking at the opening of its annual meeting held at Zhoushan, a pilot free trade zone set up last year.
“The free trade zone is not just strategically important to the province, it also enhances Zhoushan’s role in the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Ms Sim, who is also Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.
Zhejiang vice-governor Zhu Congjiu, who is co-chair of the SZETC, in a meeting with Ms Sim said that steady progress had been made on the Zhoushan FTZ in the past year. He welcomed more collaboration with Singapore on developing the area.
“We have sent many of our officials to Singapore to learn from your experience in building a free port,” he said.
On Thursday, Ms Sim also witnessed the signing of 14 pacts between Singapore and Zhejiang companies in various sectors, including urban solutions, e-commerce, wholesale trade and logistics.
Among them was a joint venture between Anacle, a Singapore software company, and Enjoytown, a Zhejiang real estate developer, to co-develop and provide smart city and township management solutions.
“Trade and economic ties between Singapore and Zhejiang have been growing steadily. The 14 project collaborations signed today are testament to Singapore’s continued strong interest in the province,” said Ms Sim.
Zhejiang is one of China’s richest provinces with a gross domestic product of $1.08 trillion, about three times the size of Singapore’s economy.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the business council since it was set up in 2003. According to Enterprise Singapore, trade between Singapore and Zhejiang almost doubled in the past decade. In 2007, bilateral trade was $2.7 billion, and by last year, it reached $5.2 billion, a 24-per cent jump from 2016.
Singapore firms have also invested a total of $7.2 billion in 1,201 projects in the province.
Ms Sim on Wednesday met Zhejiang governor Yuan Jiajun and Zhoushan party chief Yu Donglai.
Mr Yuan told her that the Zhejiang government was committed to improve the business environment in the province and to further open up its markets to foreign investors.
The development of the Ningbo-Zhoushan sea port, the Yiwu railway port, the consolidation of local airports as well as the virtual connectivity spearheaded by Alibaba would result in more opportunities for mutual collaboration, he said.
Cooperation between both sides have also expanded beyond economics and trade.
A delegation of youth leaders led by the National Youth Council accompanied Ms Sim on her five-day trip, which ends on Friday.
“Zhejiang is leading China in developments that are particularly invigorating to the youths, such as e-commerce, the rise of the internet giants, also in terms of its pole position when it comes to lifestyle industries,” Ms Sim told The Straits Times.
“And I hope Singapore is also an attractive destination for Zhejiang youths who are seeking to know more about the world,” she added.