16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation

S'pore trialling digital documentation with 2 Chinese ports to cut paperwork

Move part of Republic's efforts to build Networked Trade Platform to allow for electronic exchanges, saving time

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat co-chairing the meetings yesterday with Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng (on screen). With Mr Heng are (facing the camera, from left) Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, Health Minister Gan Kim
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat co-chairing the meetings yesterday with Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng (on screen). With Mr Heng are (facing the camera, from left) Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, and (back to camera, from left) National Development Minister Desmond Lee and Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Singapore is currently trialling digital documentation with two ports in China - Qinzhou and Tianjin - to facilitate trade by reducing the amount of paperwork involved in cross-border trade, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

The trials come as part of Singapore's move to build its Networked Trade Platform, which will allow for electronic exchanges of documents needed for import and export, Mr Heng added at a virtual press conference after the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation between Singapore and China.

Singapore launched the Networked Trade Platform initiative in 2018 to cut back on the paperwork involved in cross-border trade and reduce the time needed for import and export of goods, among other benefits.

Mr Heng said if the trials are successful, electronic exchanges would help the private sector "deal with trade finance, trade insurance in a much more digital way".

Under a new memorandum of understanding on China-Singapore (Tianjin) Customs Twinning Cooperation, the Republic and Tianjin in northern China will share best practices on the application of new technologies and improve risk management by exchanging permit data.

The initiative will deepen connectivity between Singapore and China.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said Singapore can partner China to create more inclusive, international platforms that can better connect with the world, and work towards establishing global standards for a more inclusive and integrated global order.

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said that on the digitalisation front, Singapore is working on a pilot project with Shenzhen to mutually recognise electronic bills of lading.

A bill of lading is a legal and commercial document providing evidence for the contract of carriage, receipt, ownership and a record of goods for a cargo shipment.

Given the intricacies of maritime trade law, the paper trail typically runs up to hundreds of pages for a single transaction.

Mr Iswaran said the aim is to roll out the pilot by the first quarter of next year. "Potentially, we can then broaden that to between China and Singapore and through Singapore into the region. It will be a significant achievement," he added.

Singapore has also expanded its Global Innovation Alliance to include Shenzhen, he said. The alliance, now with 15 global cities, is an initiative to strengthen the country's connections to major innovation hubs around the world.

This links Singapore's innovation enterprise system to Shenzhen's, so that companies can work together and tap talent and ideas being developed on both sides, the minister added.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said Singapore and China will, over the next two years, cooperate in regional and international platforms, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and in Asean-China relations.

"Both sides will also enhance cooperation on circular economy and zero-waste initiatives at the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, and exchange best practices in carbon pricing and development of monitoring, reporting and verification requirements," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore trialling digital documentation with 2 Chinese ports to cut paperwork'. Subscribe