Singapore, China ink deals on trade, BRI

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang witnessing the signing of an MOU between Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and China's National Development and Reform Commission vice-chair Zhang Yong at the Diaoyutai State
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang witnessing the signing of an MOU between Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and China's National Development and Reform Commission vice-chair Zhang Yong at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing yesterday. Five agreements were signed by both countries yesterday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

BEIJING • Singapore and China signed five agreements yesterday, strengthening further their collaboration on trade, law enforcement and projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) sealed two new partnerships. In one, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong agreed to set up a ministerial-level Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council.

It will be a platform for both sides to cooperate in six areas: the Belt and Road; financial services; technology and innovation; ease of doing business; urban governance; and people-to-people exchanges.

Incoming deputy prime minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Mr Ying will co-chair the council, while Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong and Shanghai's Vice-Mayor Xu Kunlin will be deputy co-chairs.

Enterprise Singapore and Shanghai's Foreign Affairs Office will be its secretariats.

The first meeting is on May 24 in Shanghai.

While the council is the eighth business panel Singapore has with China, it is Shanghai's first comprehensive institutionalised platform with a foreign country, said an MTI statement.

Mr Chan also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with vice-chair Zhang Yong of China's state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, on an implementation framework for cooperation in third-party markets.

The agreement, taking further an MOU signed in April last year, identifies logistics, e-commerce, infrastructure and professional services such as financial and legal services, as areas for collaboration in third-party markets under the BRI.

"As China enters its next phase of economic transformation, these MOUs will strengthen Singapore's participation in China's new growth strategies to mutual benefit. The newly established Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council will help to anchor Singapore's engagements of China's key financial and business hub, and tap the economic integration of the Yangtze River Delta," said Mr Chan in a statement.

 
 
 
 

The agreement will also bolster Singapore's role as a launch pad into South-east Asian markets for Chinese companies looking for opportunities along the Belt and Road, he added.

MTI figures show trade between Singapore and Shanghai hit US$13.5 billion (S$18.4 billion) last year, accounting for nearly 14 per cent of Singapore's trade with China.

As at the end of last year, Singapore had more than 4,800 projects in Shanghai, amounting to US$15.2 billion worth of cumulative actual investments.

Singapore was the largest foreign investment destination for China along the Belt and Road last year, capturing close to 23 per cent of the total investment outflow from China to Belt and Road countries.

Singapore and China have joined forces in third-party markets in sectors from infrastructure to financing to professional services.

The Singapore Customs also signed two agreements with its Chinese counterpart on closer collaboration in tackling customs offences and the setting up of a data exchange system.

In the first agreement, both sides will share findings from new customs enforcement equipment and techniques.

The second MOU spells out the implementation of an electronic data exchange system that was agreed on under the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement upgrade signed last November.

This system will allow for the faster transfer of information for trade and eliminates the need for companies to submit hard-copy certificates of origin. It will start on July 1.

Singapore-based infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong and China's state-owned Silk Road Fund also inked a co-investment deal.

The two sides will set up a US$500 million infrastructure co-investment platform that will fund infrastructure projects in South-east Asia.

Tan Dawn Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore, China ink deals on trade, BRI'. Print Edition | Subscribe