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Remarks by Minister Heng Swee Keat at the Welcome Banquet by Singapore Business Community for Premier of the State Council of The People's Republic of China Li Keqiang on 13 November 2018, Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre

13 Nov 2018








1.       我非常荣幸能够欢迎李总理首次以总理身份正式访新。李总理这次访新的行程非常充实,富有实质性成果,充分反映了新中两国多领域的广泛及深入的合作。

2.       Singapore and China enjoy long-standing and warm bilateral relations.

a.       PM Lee Hsien Loong visited China in September last year and in April this year. During the April visit, PM Lee and President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the demonstrative, strategic and forward-looking relationship (示范性,战略性,前瞻性) between Singapore and China.

b.       DPM Teo and DPM Tharman both visited China this year as well.

c.        Conversely, Vice-Premier Han Zheng visited Singapore in September this year to co-chair the 14th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, or JCBC, with DPM Teo.

d.       Vice President Wang Qishan made an official visit to Singapore just last week.

e.       We are honoured to cap off an eventful year with the visit of His Excellency, Premier Li Keqiang.

3.       I had the privilege of participating in many of these meetings. Over the years, I witnessed China’s rapid transformation and development when I visit China.

a.       In the last one year, I have visited China thrice to meet Government officials, financial institutions, companies and technology start-ups.

b.       In June, I attended the Sino-Singapore Artificial Intelligence Forum in Nanjing.

c.        About a month ago, I was at Beijing to attend the GIC Insights, an annual thought leadership event by GIC, and to celebrate GIC's 20th anniversary in China.

4.       While Singapore and China established formal diplomatic relations in 1990, our leaders had been laying the foundation of our strong bilateral relations long before that.

a.       Premier Li arrived in Singapore yesterday, 12 November, the exact date of Mr Deng Xiaoping visit to Singapore 40 years ago. This was shortly before China made a significant decision in December 1978 on reform and opening up.

b.       Two years earlier, in 1976, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had made the first of what would be his many visits to China.

c.        Singapore’s former Deputy PM Dr Goh Keng Swee was also appointed as an advisor on the Special Economic Zones to China’s top leadership from 1985 to 1990.

5.       The friendship between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Deng Xiaoping sowed the seeds for further collaboration between the two countries.

a.       The Suzhou Industrial Park was set up as an integrated township development, to pilot a new model of economic and social development.  The park will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.

b.       We embarked on the Tianjin Eco-city project 10 years ago to support China’s efforts in sustainable development in the face of rapid urbanisation. A green and vibrant city has emerged on what were once barren salt pans.

c.        The China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative, or CCI, focuses on modern connectivity and services. The CCI seeks to catalyse the development of Western China by enhancing its connectivity with Southeast Asia.  

6.       Singapore has been an early and consistent supporter of China’s integration with the global economy, and the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI.

a.       We supported China joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001. I was in Doha then and witnessed this historic event.

b.       The BRI, which is a strategic initiative by China to strengthen its linkages and integration with the region and the world, will be a major area of cooperation in the coming years. At the 14th JCBC, both sides welcomed the BRI as an important focal point of our deepening cooperation.

7.       To improve infrastructure connectivity, so as to promote the flow of goods, services, capital and people, the CCI- New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor will serve as a bridge between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It will provide a new link between Western China and Southeast Asia.

8.       We are also enhancing connectivity, in finance, professional and legal & judicial services.  

a.       Singapore, as a major financial centre, seeks to facilitate finance and business services.  Around one-quarter of China’s investments into the Belt and Road countries currently flows through Singapore’s financial system.

b.       Singapore has been a strong supporter of the internationalisation of the RMB, and is an important offshore Renminbi centre.

c.        We are also promoting greater cooperation in financial and legal advisory services to support Belt and Road projects to deliver benefits for the region.

9.       As the world global economic weight shifts towards Asia, Asia will play a larger role in global trade and investment flows. China and ASEAN are also deepening cooperation in many areas, to maintain peace, stability, and to deepen trade and investment relations. 

a.       For example, Singapore supports China’s “going out” (走出去) strategy. As China’s capacity to export capital and expertise to the region and the world increases, Singapore can be a useful springboard for companies to venture into third markets, especially in Southeast Asia. Our companies can work together when expanding abroad, with Singapore companies adding value through their local knowledge and networks in regional markets.

10.      PM Lee and President Xi have aptly characterised our relations as an “All-Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times” (与时俱进的全方位合作伙伴关系). Our three Government-to-Government projects show how our cooperation has supported China’s developmental priorities over the years.

a.       The various agreements witnessed by PM Lee and Premier Li yesterday also show that our cooperation continues to evolve with our developmental needs. For instance, the upgrading of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, or CSFTA, signals our joint commitment towards greater economic collaboration and trade liberalisation. For the fifth consecutive year, Singapore is China’s largest foreign investor while China remains Singapore’s top trading partner. Since the entry into force of the CSFTA, China’s first comprehensive FTA with an Asian country, our bilateral trade with China has grown from 383 billion RMB in 2009, to 740 billion RMB in 2017. The upgrade also allows us to keep abreast with business developments by incorporating commitments in new areas such as e-commerce.

b.       To further facilitate trade flows through digitalisation, our custom authorities also agreed to work towards linking up our respective Single Window System. 

c.        Both countries are also cooperating in other areas of mutual interest and to tackle common challenges such as in innovation, urban planning and ageing population.

11.  多年来,新中两国在许多方面都开展了实质性的合作。在此,我要特别感谢新加坡工商联合总会和新加坡中华总商会的成员等新方企业,在创造合作机遇中发挥了重要作用。

12.  中国是新加坡企业投资的首选目的地。新加坡也是中国企业投资的目的地之一。 如今,超过7,500 家中国企业已在新加坡开拓业务。其中一些以新加坡做为扩展它们在东南亚业务的基地。同时,大约 100 家中国企业已经在新加坡上市。在今天早上的新加坡讲座,李总理提到维护多边贸易体系的重要性。总理也鼓励更多新加坡企业到中国投资,也提到新加坡是中国企业“走出去”的好起点。

13.    除了新加坡工商联合总会和新加坡中华总商会,通商中国也积极促进新中两国企业及知名企业家的交流,扩大人脉,探求合作机遇。同时,通商中国也致力于建立一个双语双文化平台,加深两国人民的相互了解,与各领域不同阶层协作,促进两国间的交流发展。

14. 新中两国政府将继续为双方企业和人民搭建合作的桥梁,一同为两国人民创造双赢的合作机遇。我期待新中两国继续和衷共济, 关系历久弥新。