Singapore and China reaffirm excellent ties on the sidelines of Asean summits

PM Lee Hsien Loong meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the 40th and 41st Asean summits on Friday. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

PHNOM PENH - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met on Friday on the sidelines of the 40th and 41st Asean summits, where they reaffirmed the excellent state of bilateral ties.

At their meeting in Phnom Penh, the leaders discussed Singapore and China’s broad-ranging cooperation, including in emerging areas such as the digital and green economies, said PM Lee’s press secretary Chang Li Lin.

PM Lee and Mr Li also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concern, including the state of the global economy, added Ms Chang.

“PM Lee congratulated Premier Li on the successful conclusion of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. PM Lee and Premier Li reaffirmed the excellent ties between Singapore and China,” said Ms Chang.

At a meeting between Asean leaders and Mr Li earlier in the day, PM Lee said that relations between China and the bloc had continued to grow despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

He noted that both sides have been each other’s top trading partner since 2020, and that China was also the first Asean Free Trade Area partner to ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The trade pact, which kicked in this year, is an agreement between 15 countries and seeks to cut tariffs for businesses for more than 90 per cent of goods traded among signatory parties.

Negotiations to upgrade the Asean-China Free Trade Area were also launched at this meeting. The move, which seeks to expand the free trade zone between China and South-east Asia, is the latest in efforts to encourage business between these nations.

In 2021, China’s trade with the Asean countries reached US$878.2 billion (S$1.2 trillion).

Turning to the South China Sea issue, PM Lee told fellow leaders that the waterway is important not only to claimant states but also to the rest of the international community, as a big part of global trade passes through its waters.

As a major maritime and trading nation and a strong supporter of international law, Singapore supports the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, he said.

PM Lee added that the Republic welcomes the Joint Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

He said the document embodies the collective commitment of parties to promote peace, stability, mutual trust and confidence in the region, in accordance with international law.

“With these same principles in mind, Singapore supports the conclusion of a code of conduct for the South China Sea that safeguards the rights and interests of all parties.”

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