Singapore and China's Shandong province can deepen their cooperation in trade and connectivity, sustainability and modern services, said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Chee Hong Tat yesterday.
Mr Chee, who also co-chairs the Singapore-Shandong Business Council, told virtual participants at the 22nd council meeting: "Singapore and Shandong can work hand in hand to deepen, strengthen and accelerate our cooperation, so that we can overcome the challenges during this pandemic and emerge stronger together after the crisis."
He said that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, two-way trade between Singapore and Shandong grew significantly this year, reaching a total of US$3.6 billion (S$4.9 billion) in the first nine months. This marks a year-on-year growth of 117 per cent.
The figures include trading activities by Singapore companies that imported food and medical supplies such as surgical masks from Shandong.
Shandong is now Singapore's fifth-largest destination for investment in China, after the provinces of Jiangsu and Guangdong, and the municipalities of Shanghai and Chongqing. Last year, Singapore's foreign direct investment into Shandong reached US$750 million, across 70 projects.
Mr Chee said: "There is opportunity for Chinese exporters to broaden the range of exported produce from Shandong to Singapore, including premium fruits and vegetables such as cherries and black garlic.
"Beyond meeting our domestic demand, we are also happy to work with the Shandong government to increase food trade with South-east Asia and other regions, using Singapore as a trading hub."
He said progress has been made in helping Singapore companies participate in Shandong's economic transformation, promoting the internationalisation of Shandong enterprises through Singapore, and strengthening people-to-people exchanges.
Cooperation can also be strengthened in sustainability, he added, as both Singapore and China work to develop solutions for a cleaner and greener environment.
Companies from both countries can also accelerate their partnerships in modern services. Singapore's financial services companies and law firms, with their extensive networks and experience in South-east Asia, can be good partners to Shandong companies looking to internationalise, Mr Chee said.
To increase collaboration between both countries, five partnerships were signed between Singapore and Shandong organisations. The signings were witnessed by Mr Chee and Shandong Vice-Governor Ren Airong.
They include a tie-up between two technology companies to set up businesses in China and Asean markets, and a partnership between an education group here and the Qingdao Blue Silicon Valley administrative committee to develop talent in vocational education in Qingdao.
A Singapore water treatment company also inked an agreement with the Yicheng district government for the construction of the township and industrial park sewage network.
Mr Chee said: "It may be challenging for companies to enter new markets now due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We will overcome Covid-19 - it is a question of when.
"Companies should use this period to prepare themselves by understanding the market opportunities and finding potential partners, so that they are ready to move swiftly when the global economy recovers."