SINGAPORE - Singapore and China hauled home 14 deals on Wednesday (Dec 29) from their annual bilateral cooperation summit, the most in recent years despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
From the agreements, it was clear both sides are keen to work on sustainability issues, digitalisation and people-to-people exchanges as the platform, the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), clocks its 17th edition.
Like last year, the apex meeting to discuss collaborations between the two governments was held virtually, with 14 Singapore ministers and 17 Chinese counterparts attending.
“I think it reflects the strong foundation of our collaboration over the years,” said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who co-chaired the meeting with Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng, of the significant number of deals this year.
On a softer note, Mr Heng and Mr Han also revealed that the name of the first panda cub born in Singapore was Le Le. It was born to Kai Kai and Jia Jia, a pair of pandas who are on loan from China.
Touching on working together in a post-Covid-19 world, Mr Heng said the economy will have to be more resilient, more digitalised and much more reliant on technology and innovation.
Singapore is already making this transformation, while China plans to be more self-reliant technologically and reduce carbon emissions to reach its climate goals.
Mr Han said that as close neighbours and partners, China and Singapore enjoy mutual political understanding and trust and maintain close high-level exchanges.
Among the new deals inked are collaborations on nature conservation, low-carbon development, urban governance, digitalisation efforts to speed up customs and port clearance, and a new institute in Guangzhou involving the National University of Singapore focusing on smart cities and advanced manufacturing.
Cooperation on the three inter-governmental projects – Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-city and Chongqing Connectivity Initiative – continue to evolve.
For instance, Singapore’s National Parks Board will help turn Tianjin Eco-city into a “Garden City” with more greenery-related infrastructure, such as a green belt that is a linear park, and park connectors.
There is also a new innovation hub involving the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) to support Chinese companies that want to explore commercial tie-ups with Singapore firms and expand into the region.
Likewise, since last November, SIP has, through Singapore’s A*Star, supported 15 Singapore start-ups looking to expand into China.
These include Hexalotus, which uses artificial intelligence to create 3D models of patients’ organs and surgical guides.
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said beefing up the global supply chain was also a priority, especially for essential items such as food. Last year, Singapore added seven fishery suppliers to an export list for such products to China.
He has proposed that the two countries set up a “forward inspection hub” in Singapore to cut short the time for inspecting and clearing food products at Chinese ports.
Both sides plan to update their free trade agreement, which may see greater market access to China for Singapore companies.
A new feature of the trade deal is telecommunications services, providing a “more enabling regulatory environment” for Singapore companies entering and operating in the Chinese telecommunications market, said Mr Gan.
Singapore is also hoping to restore flight connectivity with China as soon as possible.
Mr Heng said he had raised this at the meeting with Mr Han, asking that Singapore be among the first to re-establish cross-border travel when China is ready to loosen its controls.