SINGAPORE — China and Singapore are jointly exploring potentials for further cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with recent moves to deepen economic and trade relations.
At the sidelines of the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, Vice Commerce Minister Fu Ziying and Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing jointly announced the conclusion of negotiations on the upgraded China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA).
Chan said the upgrade signals both countries’ joint commitment towards not only greater economic collaboration but also trade liberalization.
Indeed, trade liberalization is important for both countries under the BRI. Ning Jizhe, deputy head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, said at the first Singapore-China BRI Investment Forum in October that free trade had become a distinctive feature of China-Singapore cooperation.
He said at the forum that China had become Singapore’s largest trading partner since 2013, and Singapore had become China’s largest source of investment also for five consecutive years.
By the end of 2017, the cumulative investment of Singapore to China was over $90 billion, and that of China to Singapore was over $36.6 billion. The two countries recorded a bilateral trade value of $79.2 billion in 2017, up 12.4 percent year-on-year.
The BRI, proposed by China in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
Other important ingredients in the economic and trade relations between China and Singapore under the BRI are interconnection, financial cooperation and third-party market cooperation, from which both countries are digging for new opportunities of cooperation.
Regarding interconnection, China and Singapore have already carried out three government-to-government cooperation projects, namely Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-City and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, with more projects, such as the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City and the China-Singapore Southern Transport Corridor, are underway.
They are expected to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation between the two countries under the BRI framework and strengthen the cross-border and cross-region connectivity.
In terms of financial cooperation, China and Singapore are tapping into potentials at the private sectors.
The Asia Pacific Exchange, founded by Chinese companies, for instance, was officially opened in Singapore in May, aimed at establishing Asian price benchmark for commodities and becoming a new iconic BRI project.
China’s commercial banks are also playing increasingly important roles in promoting bilateral financial cooperation with Singapore. Take the Bank of China for example, as of late July, its Singapore branch has raised an accumulated more than $16 billion of fund for financing BRI projects.
As for third-party market cooperation, China and Singapore signed a document in April, said Ning at the Singapore-China BRI Investment Forum, adding that it would benefit regional economic development, as well as the open global economy.
Chan, the Singaporean minister, also said at the forum that as a key global trading and financing hub, Singapore could be a launch-pad for Chinese companies to venture into third-party markets, especially in Southeast Asia.
Teo Siong Seng, Chairman of Singapore Business Federation, told Xinhua on Nov 8 that Chinese and Singaporean companies are strong matches for each other in participating in infrastructure projects along the Belt and Road routes.
“China has the advantages in manpower, materials and financial resources, while Singapore has rich experience of operating in many countries along the Belt and Road not only in Southeast Asia, but also in South Asia and Africa,” he said.
“The combination of the two sides can play a complementary role in pushing forward the enterprises of both countries to implement their ‘go-global’ strategies under the BRI framework, avoiding detours,” he noted.
The spirit of going global together by Chinese and Singaporean enterprises fully reflects the world’s needs for multilateral cooperation, mutual benefit, but not unilateralism.