Singapore and China exchange letters to start talks on upgrading FTA, agree to kickstart Chongqing project

Delegates and ministers from Singapore and China meet and agreed to do more together in multiple areas - trade and business, education, culture, and Government. MCI PHOTO
PM Lee Hsien Loong gesturing to China's President Xi Jinping after the signing of MOUs between China and Singapore. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
Minister Yu Guangzhou, General Administration of China Customs (left) and Minister Heng Swee Keat shaking hands after signing the MOUs. The signing was witnessed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and PM Lee Hsien Loong. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
DPM Teo Chee Hean (right) with China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi signing the MOU for framework agreement between Singapore and China on the development of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity in China. The signing was witnessed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and PM Lee Hsien Loong. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang has exchanged letters with his Chinese counterpart, Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, to officially launch negotiations to upgrade the bilateral free trade agreement.

This sets the two countries on the path to broadening the pact, first inked in 2008, to cover more sophisticated economic areas like trade in services.

Mr Lim and Mr Gao exchanged letters at a ceremony at the Istana on Saturday, which also saw several other agreements inked between Singapore and China.

The two sides also signed agreements to kickstart their third government-to-government project.

It will be cited in Chongqing in China's western region, and be called the "China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity".

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean represented Singapore while State Councillor Yang Jiechi represented China in the signing.

The Chongqing project follows in the footsteps of the 1994 Suzhou Industrial Park and the 2008 Tianjin Eco-City.

The project is envisioned as a joint modern services demonstration zone in Chongqing, where Singapore firms can offer legal and accounting services, as well as an integrated logistics centre comprising an aviation and port logistics hub.

At the Istana on Saturday, a third major agreement expanding cooperation between the education ministries of both sides was also signed.

The agreement will see a new programme in which up to 15 senior educators from each country will be given the opportunity to be attached to technical and vocational institutions in the other country.

Existing exchange programmes, like one where English-language teachers from China can apply for Masters of Arts in Applied Linguistics at Singapore's National Institute of Education, will also be expanded.

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