Belt and Road Initiative can boost multilateral ties amid uncertainty: Heng Swee Keat

China could work with other nations to launch more projects in third-party markets, he says

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plays an important role in strengthening regional and multilateral cooperation amid global uncertainty, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

To this end, China could work with other countries to launch more projects in third-party markets, he added, urging companies here to take advantage of the opportunities.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking in Mandarin at a Singapore-China Business Association event at Shangri-La Hotel, ahead of his trip to China next week. He will attend the Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council meeting and Pujiang Innovation Forum in Shanghai during his visit.

Casting an eye on current geopolitical developments, he said economic growth is forecast to slow, with the ongoing trade war between the United States and China as well as a lack of clarity on Brexit.

But even as the global economy slows down, Asia's economy remains strong, Mr Heng noted, adding that Asean is expected to become the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030.

Against this backdrop, the BRI presents opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, he said.

Besides developing physical in-frastructure to better connect China with the world, China can work with other countries on new areas of cooperation under the initiative, he added.

He reiterated a suggestion made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the second Belt and Road Forum last month for China to work with other countries on investments in third-party markets.

 
 
 

The Singapore-China Business Association can play a part in encouraging this by helping companies from Singapore and China to explore cooperation in other markets, Mr Heng said at the swearing-in ceremony for the association's executive council.

He urged the association to continue to build bridges between companies from both countries and create more partnership opportunities.

Mr James Ow, president of the association, pledged that it will continue to be a platform for promoting cooperation, and spare no effort in helping companies that want to pursue cooperation in third-party markets.

The association has also set up a new youth group to attract young entrepreneurs in Singapore who want to venture into the Chinese market, as well as young entrepreneurs in China who are looking to set up shop in Singapore.

Addressing about 200 people at the event yesterday, including representatives from the Chinese Embassy, Mr Heng also reaffirmed the longstanding ties between Singapore and China. Both countries will mark 30 years of diplomatic ties next year, he added.

Mr Zhang Xumin, deputy chief of mission and minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy, said in his speech that Singapore is an "important fulcrum country" in the BRI.

Describing both countries as "natural partners" in co-building the initiative, he said Singapore and China had kicked off cooperation "at an early stage, at a high starting point, and on a big scale".

In his speech, Mr Heng also pointed to how the cooperation between both countries has moved with the times, citing the three inter-governmental projects between Singapore and China: the China-Singapore Suzhou Indus-trial Park, Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city and China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity.

Singapore, he said, can provide a platform for Chinese companies to expand overseas.

At the same time, Chinese com-panies based in Singapore can help local companies enter the Chinese market.

Mr Heng added that he believed economic and trade cooperation between both countries will grow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'BRI can boost multilateral ties amid uncertainty: Heng'. Print Edition | Subscribe