SINGAPORE - Despite uncertain global economic conditions last year, trade between Singapore and China's Sichuan province grew 42.8 per cent year-on-year to hit US$1.44 billion (S$2 billion).
For the first half of 2019, this figure was even higher at 50.3 per cent compared with a year ago, said Singapore and Sichuan leaders during the 20th Singapore-Sichuan Trade and Investment Committee meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Singapore remains the largest foreign investor in the south-western Chinese province, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng in an opening address at the meeting on Wednesday (Sept 4).
Singapore's cumulative actual foreign direct investment in Sichuan stood at US$6.93 billion last year, in over 600 projects ranging from infrastructure to modern services, Mr Ng added.
At the event, Sichuan Vice-Governor Li Yunze noted the importance of placing the new economy and high-end industries at the core of growth and cooperation between both sides.
Set up in 1996, the committee is one of seven business councils that promote economic exchanges and cooperation between Singapore and a Chinese province or municipality.
The latest meeting, attended by over 200 government and business representatives, saw 17 project agreements signed in areas such as medical technology, transport and logistics, as well as lifestyle.
For example, Singapore biomedical start-up Innovfusion signed a research collaboration agreement with the West China Hospital of Sichuan University to co-develop a smart system for administering general anaesthesia.
Ademco Security Group and clean energy start-up Aspiring Citizens CleanTech also signed memoranda of understanding to set up operations in the Singapore Innovation Centre, a launchpad for Singapore firms to enter Sichuan. They plan to provide smart security and transport solutions respectively.
Mr Li said the Singapore Innovation Centre is expected to formally start operations in November this year, with about 10 projects coming on board.
It was previously said that the centre aims to attract up to 200 enterprises by next year.
Mr Ng added that Sichuan has formally joined the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative-International Land Sea Trade Corridor in July. China's National Development and Reform Commission has also identified Chengdu - Sichuan's capital - as an important node in the overall plan of the Western Region Land-Sea Trade Corridor.
"These two initiatives not only strengthen the development of Sichuan's transport and logistics ecosystem, but will also enhance trade flows between Sichuan and South-east Asia," he said.
There remain many areas where both sides can forge closer partnerships, including in innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as in the internationalisation of Chinese companies, Mr Ng added.
"As we tackle common challenges such as providing affordable healthcare and an ageing population, there is potential for both sides to co-create innovative solutions," he said.
Singapore can also share its experience in tourism, contributing to Sichuan's vibrancy and Chengdu's vision to become a global city.
With the Belt and Road Initiative also promoting the internationalisation of Chinese firms, Mr Ng noted that the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Enterprise Singapore set up Infrastructure Asia last October to facilitate infrastructure projects in Asia by making them more bankable.
"Many Sichuan companies in this industry have deep technical and engineering expertise and we welcome them to tap Singapore's wide suite of offerings in legal, financial advisory and project structuring, and expand operations into South-east Asia and beyond," he said, adding that they can explore partnerships in third-party markets as well.
Last year, Enterprise Singapore led over 80 Singapore companies across food, education and eldercare sectors to explore business opportunities in Sichuan.