The two-day visit to Singapore of China’s Vice-Premier Han Zheng on Nov 1 and 2 – the first by a Chinese leader of his stature since the Covid-19 pandemic – appears to have exceeded expectations in terms of reinvigorating bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries. The highlight of the visit was the signing of what Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat described as “a bumper crop” of 19 memorandums of understanding and agreements – up from 14 last year – covering areas that included green development and green finance, e-commerce, public health, innovation cooperation and tourism exchanges. It also reaffirmed the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) – now in its 18th year – as the apex platform for collaboration between China and Singapore. The meeting of the JCBC, jointly chaired by Mr Han and Mr Heng, reviewed progress on some of the signature projects such as the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City and the Suzhou Industrial Park. Both sides also agreed to speed up negotiations on the China-Singapore free trade agreement and move forward on implementing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – the world’s largest trade agreement, which went into effect in 2022.
What is also encouraging about the outcomes of the bilateral meeting is that despite the supply chain disruptions and the economic slowdowns in China and Singapore, the two countries were able to identify new growth opportunities in emerging areas – notably, green development, the digital economy and connectivity – that would potentially benefit both, and the region, over the long term. Amid continuing global trade tensions and rising climate risks, they also signalled a joint commitment to open regionalism and sustainable development.