Singapore pledges to work with China on Belt, Road vision

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean speaking at the FutureChina Global Forum.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean speaking at the FutureChina Global Forum.ST PHOTO: DANSON CHEONG

Key to success is ensuring safe and free flow of goods overland and across seas: DPM Teo

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has pledged that Singapore will work with China to realise the full potential of the Belt and Road initiative.

One important way is to ensure the safe and free flow of goods overland and across the seas, including the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Singapore, he said.

For this reason, "Singapore will continue to uphold this right of transit passage for ships and aircraft of all countries, and will not support any attempt to restrict transit passage to ships or aircraft from any country". He also said that working together to provide safe and unimpeded passage to all is a key prerequisite for the modern Maritime Silk Road.

Mr Teo was setting out how Singapore can contribute to boosting connectivity among the hubs of the Belt and Road initiative, of which the Maritime Silk Road is a part. It was one of three areas of cooperation he identified yesterday, when opening the FutureChina Global Forum.

The Belt and Road initiative, the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping, envisions connecting Asia, Europe and Africa through a network of roads, ports, bridges, tunnels, pipelines and other projects involving almost 70 nations and two- thirds of the world's population.

This "grand vision... has the potential to bring long-lasting benefits for regional development and integration, uplifting the economies and people across this whole vast region", said Mr Teo.

 

Singapore supports it, he added, noting that both countries have strong ties which have adapted with their needs over the years.

UPHOLDING RIGHT OF PASSAGE

Singapore will continue to uphold this right of transit passage for ships and aircraft of all countries, and will not support any attempt to restrict transit passage to ships or aircraft from any country.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TEO CHEE HEAN, on the importance of free passage in the Belt and Road initiative.

Mr Chen Deming, standing committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Mr Lan Tianli, first vice- governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, also lauded the bilateral ties in their keynote addresses.

Mr Chen said the deep relationship was initiated by Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, adding: "Recently, with the joint efforts of the later generations of the leaders of both countries, this relationship has been further strengthened."

Mr Teo noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Xi, who met last week in Hamburg before the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit, had affirmed the substantive relationship between their countries, the frequent high-level exchanges and good progress in cooperation.

Cooperation on the Belt and Road is a key example of close ties, and is a crucial area of work for the Singapore-China Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, he said, referring to the council he co-chairs with Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

He added that there is "much potential for broadening and deepening our relationship and taking it to the next level".

The two other ways Singapore can contribute to the Belt and Road initiative are financing and human capital development.

In financing, opportunities exist to support new projects and the internationalisation of China's currency, he said. For instance, financial institutions with major operations in Singapore can actively finance trade and investments between China and Asean.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank can also work with other multilateral financing institutions here, he added.

Singapore and China can also help other nations along the Belt and Road develop human capital, "in line with the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit".

To illustrate, Mr Teo said Singapore and China can share their experience in areas such as project preparation, gleaned from three joint government projects: the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City.

Summing up, he said: "While we have often focused on the physical infrastructure of the Belt and Road, other dimensions and layers are also important to realise the full potential of the initiative."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore pledges to work with China on Belt, Road vision'. Print Edition | Subscribe