Singapore well placed to contribute to Belt and Road: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong being interviewed by Xinhua news agency on Monday, ahead of the second Belt and Road forum, which starts tomorrow. In the interview, PM Lee touched on China's Belt and Road Initiative as well as Singapore-China ties.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong being interviewed by Xinhua news agency on Monday, ahead of the second Belt and Road forum, which starts tomorrow. In the interview, PM Lee touched on China's Belt and Road Initiative as well as Singapore-China ties.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Republic can play role in financial services, third-country investments, human resources

Ties between Singapore and China have grown tremendously since they were established in 1990, and there is great potential for them to develop further, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

He drew attention to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying Singapore was well placed to make a "modest contribution" in this area.

He said Singapore hoped to be able to play a constructive role in financial services, third-country investments and human resource development.

PM Lee was speaking to Chinese state news agency Xinhua ahead of a visit to Beijing where he will attend the second Belt and Road forum, which starts tomorrow, along with almost 40 other heads of state and government.

He cited the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI) - a joint government project inaugurated in 2015 to improve transport and trade links with China's less developed western regions - as one area where Singapore felt it could make a useful contribution.

The CCI aims to boost land-sea transport connectivity, linking up the overland and maritime trunks of the BRI and connecting western China to South-east Asia and the world via Singapore.

"We see this as a very ambitious and important initiative. We are very glad that it has the full support of the Chinese government.

"And we believe if it works, it will be a service to all the countries in the region, and will benefit China as well," he said in the interview published yesterday.

PM Lee said relations between both countries have "transformed beyond recognition" since they were established in 1990. Singapore has benefited from China's reforms and opening up, a change that has been a "tremendous boon" to the world, said PM Lee. China is Singapore's biggest trading partner. Chinese data also shows that Singapore is China's biggest foreign investor.

The BRI - the signature foreign policy and development strategy of Chinese President Xi Jinping - aims to revive ancient overland and sea trade routes, and connect China to Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia by building a network of ports, roads, railways and industrial hubs.

Mooted by Mr Xi in 2013, Beijing recently said it has inked 173 deals with 125 countries and 29 international organisations on the mega-project.

 
 
 
 

Commenting on the BRI, PM Lee said: "It is a project which will take many years to bring to fruition, and will probably be one which will never have an ending point."

During the forum, he will take part in a high-level meeting at Beijing's National Convention Centre and a leaders' roundtable at Yanqi Lake in the suburb of Huairou.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras are among the other leaders attending the forum.

During the Xinhua interview, PM Lee also touched on the changing international trading order and how Singapore could maintain economic growth.

Asked by Xinhua to comment on Singapore-China ties, he said relations between both countries have "transformed beyond recognition" since they were established in 1990.

Singapore has benefited from China's reforms and opening up, a change that has been a "tremendous boon" to the world, said PM Lee.

China is Singapore's biggest trading partner. Chinese data also shows that Singapore is China's biggest foreign investor.

"We have investments all over China, especially in the coastal regions and the big cities, but increasingly into the inland provinces as well," he said.

Singapore, which was coordinator country for Asean-China relations last year, has also strived to foster deeper regional ties. In particular, it is working with China on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asean-led free trade pact.

PM Lee said he hopes these efforts will enable China to integrate constructively and peacefully into the regional and global system.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore well placed to contribute to Belt and Road: PM Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe