Singapore, China to strengthen 'Belt and Road Initiative' cooperation in three areas

Singapore, China to strengthen 'Belt and Road Initiative' cooperation in three areas
Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (L) walks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China on June 12, 2017. Photo: Reuters
Published: 3:55 PM, June 12, 2017
Updated: 11:33 PM, June 12, 2017

BEIJING — China and Singapore on Monday (June 12) pledged to strengthen cooperation on trade and regional infrastructure projects, including those under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), where both sides will work together to improve connectivity and financial support as well as enhance training and technology transfer.

“The BRI is certainly the biggest highlight ... and we have high expectation for our cooperation going forward,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a joint press conference with Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, when asked to comment on ties between both countries.

“We had in-depth talks and reached a lot of consensus on bilateral, regional issues and shared interests,” Mr Wang added. 

“Both of us are of the view that, against the background of a backlash against globalisation, China and Singapore, as the champions of regional integration, need to work together to address challenges and uphold common interests.”

Dr Balakrishnan said bilateral ties are “in good working order, strong, and have the potential to grow even deeper”, adding that both he and Mr Wang agreed that China’s relationship with South-east Asia was “stable, calm and positive”.

“Singapore has been a strong believer and supporter in the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.

“And I was also very intrigued … that one-third of China’s investments in Belt and Road countries has flowed through Singapore, and similarly as far as inward investments into China from Belt and Road countries, 85 per cent of that has been from Singapore. This illustrates the deep strength of our bilateral relationship.”

The BRI is an ambitious Chinese undertaking to expand links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond, underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

Dr Balakrishnan said that by improving connectivity, financial support as well as training and technology transfers, both sides will help catalyse the expansion and implementation of the initiative. 

“It will help mobilise capital, because a lot of capital will be needed in order to implement the connectivity and physical infrastructure needed for the BRI. At the same time ... we also need to provide training, technology transfers, and this is an area where China and Singapore can work very closely together.”

The three areas of cooperation were suggested by Mr Wang, and Dr Balakrishnan had agreed to them.

Mr Wang said that both countries’ partnership in the initiative would not only add more substance to bilateral ties, but also contribute to regional peace and development.

“Given Singapore’s location in the region, it will be well-positioned to play an important role in the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said, noting that Singapore was an important clearance centre for the yuan. 

“To advance the Belt and Road Initiative, we need financing,” he said. “We hope that cooperation with Singapore will draw upon Singapore’s strengths as a financial centre.” 

Both sides will also do their best to expedite talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade deal involving the 10 South-east Asian countries, China, India, Japan and others, said Dr Balakrishnan, who was making his second visit to Beijing this year and seeing Mr Wang for the fourth meeting in six months.

During his visit, Dr Balakrishnan also called on Vice-President Li Yuanchao and State Councilor Yang Jiechi separately.

Ties between both sides have come into the spotlight in recent months. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not receive a formal invitation from China to attend a BRI summit, hosted by President Xi Jinping last month.

In an interview with China Daily published on Monday, Dr Balakrishnan said that while both countries have their respective national interests, there are no fundamental strategic disagreements. AGENCIES