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China to fervently ‘open up’, welcomes S’pore’s co-operation as it forges ahead: Premier Li Keqiang

SINGAPORE — China will continue to deepen its reforms and fervently “open up” to the world, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday evening (Nov 12), as he reaffirmed Beijing’s enduring ties with Singapore during his first official visit here as premier.

China to fervently ‘open up’, welcomes S’pore’s co-operation as it forges ahead: Premier Li Keqiang

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) at an official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Istana on Nov 12, 2018.

SINGAPORE — China will continue to deepen its reforms and fervently “open up” to the world, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday evening (Nov 12), as he reaffirmed Beijing’s enduring ties with Singapore during his first official visit here as premier.

Stressing that China is still developing and has a “very long road ahead” of it, Mr Li welcomed Singapore to co-operate with the economic superpower as it forges ahead.

“We are thankful for Singapore’s support in China’s reform and opening up (over the years),” Mr Li said at the Istana ahead of an official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The two leaders last met in Beijing in April.

Mr Li arrived in Singapore on Monday afternoon, and was received by Mr Lee at a welcome ceremony in the Istana at about 5.40pm. The Chinese premier is set to attend a series of high-level regional meetings — including the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean)-China Summit and the East Asia Summit — in the coming days.

Mr Li noted that Singapore and China joined hands some 40 years ago, just as the latter was putting in reforms. Singapore has played a “distinct role” in China’s opening up, and it has been a win-win relationship, he added.

Noting the breadth of co-operation between the two sides — including the various government-to-government projects in Suzhou and Tianjin — Mr Li said that the strong bilateral partnerships stemmed from the deep and excellent “people-to-people” ties and interactions.

Both countries also have shared interests in protecting free trade, as well as in the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, Mr Li said.

Mr Lee, who also spoke ahead of the dinner, described Singapore and China as “like-minded partners” in many areas, even though both countries face different circumstances and constraints.

Moments earlier, the two leaders witnessed the exchange of 11 agreements, including an enhanced China-Singapore free-trade agreement, which will give Singapore businesses greater access to China’s legal, maritime and construction-services sectors, and step up market access for goods.

Mr Lee said that bilateral co-operation continues to deepen and expand beyond the three government-to-government projects: The Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-City, and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.

In the region, China and Asean share an interest in upholding an open and rules-based multilateral order. They have also made good progress in negotiations for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, and have improved mutual trust through the recent Asean-China maritime exercise, Mr Lee said.

On Singapore-China ties, Mr Lee added: “I believe that we can continue to tap our complementary strengths, deepen co-operation, and make sure that our all-round… partnership continues to progress with the times.”

On Tuesday morning, Mr Li will deliver the 44th Singapore Lecture — a platform for global statesmen and leaders to speak on topics of international and regional interest to a Singapore audience — at the St Regis Singapore Hotel. He will call on President Halimah Yacob a day later.

The Chinese premier’s visit comes exactly 40 years after the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s visit to Singapore on Nov 12, 1978. In 1976, Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew made his inaugural visit to China, laying the foundation for bilateral relations.

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