SINGAPORE: Singapore and China have built a strong bilateral relationship that has adapted with the changing needs of both countries over the years, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday (Jul 13) at the FutureChina Global Forum, where he reiterated Singapore’s support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative. He noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who were both in Germany for the G20 Leaders’ Summit, met and affirmed both countries’ substantive relationship, frequent high-level exchanges, and good progress in bilateral cooperation. “The Belt and Road initiative … has much potential for broadening and deepening our relationship and taking it to the next level. “Indeed, there are many important partnerships and initiatives that Singapore and China are working on. In the coming year, both countries will be working together on an upgrade of the China-Singapore free trade agreement,” Mr Teo said.
Singapore will be taking on the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2018. It will also be country coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, and Mr Teo said Singapore hopes to work with China and partner countries to expedite the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Mr Teo noted that he had discussed with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli in February three priority Belt and Road areas that both countries could work on together. These are enhancing physical and digital, financial and people-to-people connectivity. Mr Teo noted that large investments are being made to build new transportation links, and the full potential of the investments can be realised when they form a network allowing the safe and free flow of goods. He said this covers maritime routes through the South China Sea, Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and the Indian Ocean.