Trade links in focus for visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Han

Vice-Premier Han Zheng was hosted to a welcome dinner by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the Asian Civilisations Museum last night. Mr Han is here to attend the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting between China and Singapore for th
Vice-Premier Han Zheng was hosted to a welcome dinner by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the Asian Civilisations Museum last night. Mr Han is here to attend the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting between China and Singapore for the first time.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Rain was hardly a dampener on Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng's first day in Singapore yesterday.

Holding an umbrella, he gamely climbed up mega container ship Cosco Capricorn at the Pasir Panjang Terminal for a visit. Later, he also braved the evening shower for a walk to see the Deng Xiaoping marker along the Singapore River.

That quick stop in the rain holds particular significance - this year marks the 40th anniversary of Mr Deng's historic visit to Singapore.

The Chinese leader's sojourn in November 1978, and then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's visit to China two years earlier, helped lay the foundation for bilateral ties.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean then hosted a welcome dinner at the Asian Civilisations Museum, where Mr Han and other Chinese guests also took in the Tang Cargo exhibit, which showcases South-east Asia's linkages to the ancient Maritime Silk Road and Singapore's role in facilitating global trade.

Mr Han, who is among the seven top leaders in China after being appointed to the top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, last October, is here to attend the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting between China and Singapore for the first time. This is the highest-level platform to discuss cooperation, and is in its 14th year.

Over dinner, Mr Teo and Mr Han spoke about the deepening cooperation between the two nations under China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, such as in infrastructural connectivity, financial services, third-country partnership and professional and legal collaboration.

 

The Prime Minister's Office said they also "looked forward to the early conclusion of a substantive upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement which would signal our joint commitment to free trade and economic liberalisation".

Both leaders also discussed setting up a Singapore-Shanghai cooperation council at the ministerial-gubernatorial level, and a reciprocal internship programme for students of the two countries. The Tang Cargo exhibit will also make its way to the Shanghai Museum.

Earlier, Mr Han visited Pasir Panjang Terminal along with Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, where he boarded the Chinese-owned Cosco Capricorn and spoke with crew members.

The 400m-long ship, which can hold 20,000 containers, is on its maiden voyage from Rotterdam through Singapore to Shanghai.

Today, Mr Han will attend the annual bilateral meeting which will take stock of cooperation between the two countries and chart further developments. Also on the agenda are the Joint Steering Council meetings for the three government-to-government projects: Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-city and Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Trade links in focus for visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Han'. Print Edition | Subscribe