1. China has put forward the "dual circulation" development paradigm, and Singapore is also planning post-COVID-19 growth strategies to drive economic recovery. Under this backdrop, what are your views on strengthening bilateral pragmatic cooperation between China and Singapore? What are Singapore’s future expectations for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor? China endorsed the 14th Five-Year Plan and 2035 Vision document at the Lianghui meetings earlier this month. China would continue to open up in tandem with the expansion of its domestic market. We welcome China’s interest to deepen economic cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region.

Singapore has been the largest foreign investor in China in the past seven years. Singapore companies can continue to tap on the large and growing markets in China, in areas where Singapore’s expertise best serve China’s domestic economy.

Singapore can also play a key role in the “external circulation” of China’s dual circulation strategy. With our strong trade and logistics links to China, Singapore can be a base for Chinese companies to venture into Southeast Asia and beyond. As a key regional financial hub, Singapore can play a key role in supporting the further opening up of China’s financial and capital markets. In 2019, 76% of Singapore’s assets under management (AUM) originated from outside Singapore, and 69% of AUM was invested into the Asia Pacific region. We are well-positioned to serve as a gateway[1] for Chinese investors to access ASEAN markets and opportunities, as well as a key node to channel investments into China from the rest of the world.

The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative-New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (CCI-ILSTC), which connects the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the overland Silk Road Economic Belt of the Belt and Road Initiative, has enhanced connectivity between China, Singapore and the wider region. By significantly reducing the time and cost of transporting goods between Chongqing and Singapore, the CCI-ILSTC has also enhanced the trade and investment potential between China and Southeast Asia.

Today, around one-quarter of all Chinese outward investments to Belt and Road countries flows through Singapore, illustrating Singapore’s relevance to the Belt and Road Initiative as a financial hub for the region. Chinese commercial banks[2] are increasing their activities in Singapore and we have been engaging Chinese banks to increase their regional activities out of Singapore. We are constantly exploring new areas of cooperation that is in line with our common interests and which are mutually beneficial. 2. China and Singapore have helped each other in the fight against the epidemic. With the vaccine roll-out, the spread of COVID-19 would be under control. What do you expect from the next stage of cooperation between China and Singapore in the fight against COVID-19? Singapore and China have been in close touch to share experiences and provide mutual assistance to each other since the COVID-19 outbreak. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Public health cooperation was included as a new pillar in the agenda of the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) co-chaired by DPM Heng Swee Keat and Vice Premier Han Zheng in December last year. Two of the ten Memoranda of Understanding (MOU)/Agreements concluded at the 16th JCBC were related to public health cooperation.

We welcome China’s recent proposal on mutual recognition of health certificates. This is a timely initiative as our two countries have begun vaccination programmes. These health certificates would be an important enabler for the safe resumption of cross-border travel while protecting public health. It is important that we work together early to ensure that the systems are interoperable. 3. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. How do you comment on the current China-ASEAN relations and the outlook for future development? How do you view further strengthening regional cooperation and upholding multilateralism?

We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of ASEAN and China dialogue relations this year. China is one of the Strategic Dialogue Partners with which ASEAN has the most substantial cooperation. Over the past decade, two-way trade and investment have grown steadily. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, both sides have continued to make progress in economic cooperation. According to China’s data, ASEAN has also become China’s largest trading partner in 2020.

To further deepen economic ties, both sides are currently working to enhance the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) to ensure that ASEAN-China economic cooperation remains “fit for purpose” in a post-pandemic world. This upgrade seeks to incorporate new priorities and opportunities from the pandemic, such as digital economy, public health and reduction of non-tariff measures, amongst others.

Besides fortifying existing economic cooperation avenues, ASEAN and China have been working closely to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by upholding cross-border trade, open markets, and supply chain connectivity. We should also explore how China can continue to support ASEAN’s work to boost connectivity, digitalisation and economic recovery in the region through existing programmes such as the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 and ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN).

Singapore and China share common interests in keeping trade free, open and inclusive. We have all benefitted from an integrated global economy. Given the current circumstances, the global economy can recover faster if countries commit to cooperate and keep trade links open.

From a regional perspective, we are heartened that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement was signed in November 2020 by ASEAN and five other countries, including China. Trade Agreements such as RCEP and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) are important avenues to further deepen regional integration and cooperation. When RCEP comes into force, it will send a strong signal that our region remains committed to free and open trade. At the same time, the door remains open for other like-minded partners to join us. 4. You will visit Wuyishan in Fujian province on this trip. Wuyishan area is a key area for poverty alleviation, with achievements in targeted poverty alleviation and industrial development. China is poised to complete building a moderately prosperous society in all respects this year. How do you comment on China's decisive victory in poverty alleviation? China has made enormous progress in its poverty alleviation efforts by lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty and achieving its First Centennial Goal of a “moderately prosperous society”. We congratulate China for an achievement that is unprecedented in human history.

We are happy that our trade, investment and mutual support for development over the decades have also contributed to China’s poverty alleviation efforts. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Singapore-China relations in 2020, the Singaporean community in China have raised funds to construct a dormitory for Anzi Town Primary School located in Pengshui County, Chongqing Municipality. The dormitory has been completed, and students have moved in since last December. 5. China's 14th Five-Year Plan proposes a new development philosophy. Under this new development philosophy, green development is an important aspect. Fujian is the first National Ecological Civilization Pilot Zone in China. Wuyishan is spectacularly beautiful, and I believe you will enjoy the greenery there. Singapore, as a garden city, also attaches great importance to ecological development. The Singapore Green Plan 2030 was announced not long ago. What are your opinions on China's new development philosophy and the cooperation between the two countries in green and sustainable development?

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore