Singapore and China have entered into a formal partnership aimed at strengthening coordination on regional and global issues, and producing more cooperation initiatives, such as a third government- led project that will be based in south-western Chongqing city.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the partnership in their respective remarks as they led a toast at an Istana state banquet last night.
Mr Xi arrived yesterday afternoon for a two-day state visit to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
"Our wide-ranging cooperation evolves with the changing developmental principles, priorities and capabilities. What our two countries share is a unique all-round partnership that progresses with the times," Dr Tan said, adding that the partnership would "highlight our shared goals and aspirations of future bilateral cooperation".
Taking the podium next, Mr Xi said ties have reached a new level of development, citing a Chinese saying that means the higher you stand, the farther you see.
"With the establishment of an all- round partnership that keeps pace with the times, China will work with Singapore to seize the momentum, enhance political trust and gain new practical cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit," he added.
The partnership is also aimed at "strengthening our coordination and collaboration on international and regional issues", said Mr Xi.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement last night that both sides agreed to establish an "All Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times".
It added that both Dr Tan and Mr Xi agreed to launch negotiations on the upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and to conclude the negotiations by next year.
A Xinhua news agency report quoted Mr Xi as saying that both countries could improve coordination in multilateral outfits such as the United Nations and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and that Singapore and Chinese enterprises can explore joint ventures in third-party countries, especially in financial cooperation.
In his speech, Mr Xi noted that the first two government-to-government projects - Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City, which began in 1994 and 2008 respectively - have made good progress.
He announced that Chongqing would be the site of the third such project, which China proposed in 2013 to boost its less-developed western regions.The project has the theme of modern connectivity and modern services and is expected to focus on sectors such as aviation, finance, logistics and education.
Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and group chief executive of Singapore developer CapitaLand, said the new project will strengthen Chongqing as the gateway to western China and accelerate its development to become the country's next financial and business centre.
Mr Xi, who is accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, is making his first state visit to Singapore since becoming President in 2013. His visit is part of an exchange of presidential trips that saw Dr Tan visit Beijing and Tianjin in July. Today, Mr Xi will meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, after which they will witness the signing of agreements. Mr Xi will visit the Botanic Gardens, where an orchid hybrid will be named in honour of him and his wife. He will also deliver a lecture and open the China Cultural Centre.