S'pore, Shandong to boost cooperation in 3 key areas

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 and Information and Health Chee Hong Tat said yesterday, 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 new co-chairman of the Singapore Shandong Business Council (SSBC), taking over from former minister of state for trade and industry Teo Ser Luck.

On 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. In the Singapore delegation were other 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, a major industry for Shandong.

"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 to 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 also across China.

Shandong's gross domestic product of $1.35 trillion last year makes it the third-richest province in China, after Guangdong and Jiangsu.

With Shandong home to some of China's biggest oilfields and petrochemical companies, there are also areas of potential cooperation in the energy sector, for instance, for Singapore firms to take part in infrastructure development, and for Shandong firms to carry out trading activities in Singapore, he said.

The SSBC, the first bilateral business council formed between Singapore and a Chinese province, will hold its 20th meeting in Shandong next year.

The Republic is Shandong's third-largest foreign investor, with Singapore firms having invested more than $13 billion in the province to date, 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore, Shandong to boost cooperation in 3 key areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe