Singapore and China lay groundwork towards post-Covid-19 world with new agreements

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (right) and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation between Singapore and China. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - As the relationship between Singapore and China evolves, the two countries are working together on new areas such as public health and coming up with ways to deepen connectivity, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (Dec 8).

The groundwork is being laid now, even as strategies are being drawn up towards a more prosperous future together, he told the press after the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) between Singapore and China.

The JCBC is the highest-level bilateral platform between both countries. It is jointly chaired by DPM Heng, who is also Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, and Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng.

Mr Heng identified connectivity, digitalisation and sustainable development as increasingly critical areas for collaboration in a post-Covid-19 world.

"With our two countries having successfully contained our outbreaks, enhancing connectivity will position our countries well for a new normal that is more digital and with greater emphasis on sustainability," said Mr Heng.

Ten memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and agreements on health, food safety and environment, among other things, were signed on Tuesday at the apex meeting held virtually.

Leaders also reviewed bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road initiative, economic cooperation, trade and innovation, financial cooperation, public health cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, and sustainable development, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

They also discussed the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, which is a state-level bilateral cooperation project, the statement added.

Mr Heng said: "The substantive agenda this year reflects the breadth and depth of our cooperation. This builds on a strong foundation established by leaders on both sides, and successive generations of JCBC co-chairs."

During the meeting, the two leaders discussed how Singapore can continue to contribute to China's development strategies in the region for their bilateral projects, such as the Singapore-China Shenzhen Smart City initiative.

Mr Heng said: "Digitalisation has become more important... and going digital can help to raise quality of life in the city."

The Communications and Information Ministry and the Shenzhen Municipal People's Government signed an MOU on the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative at the JCBC meeting in Chongqing last year.

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said at the briefing that significant progress on the initiative has been made since the MOU was signed in areas such as digital trade, cross-border data management and innovation and entrepreneurship.

On the Covid-19 travel measures, Mr Heng added that Singapore and China will be discussing how to better utilise the existing fast lanes, increase flight frequency and restore normal people-to-people exchanges at an appropriate time.

"This will contribute to the recovery of our economies and our people's livelihoods," he said.

On public health collaboration, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said at the briefing that it is important that both countries work closely together to enhance cooperation in public health management so as to protect the health of the people.

"Since the start of the pandemic, both countries have supported each other and discussed strategies of Covid-19 prevention and control, and how to safely resume social and economic activities," he added.

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