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S’pore, China to export lessons gleaned from Tianjin and Suzhou flagship projects: DPM Teo

SINGAPORE — Singapore and China are looking to export the lessons learnt from flagship government-to-government projects — the Tianjin Eco-city and Suzhou Industrial Park — to other countries, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean after co-chairing a high-level bilateral meeting on Thursday (Sept 20).

Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng is on a three-day visit to Singapore, where he co-chaired the 14th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday (Sept 20).

Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng is on a three-day visit to Singapore, where he co-chaired the 14th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday (Sept 20).

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SINGAPORE — Singapore and China are looking to export the lessons learnt from flagship government-to-government projects — the Tianjin Eco-city and Suzhou Industrial Park — to other countries, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean after co-chairing a high-level bilateral meeting on Thursday (Sept 20).

The China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement will also be substantively upgraded, and the Republic hopes to sign it during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit later this year, Mr Teo added.

Earlier in the day, Mr Teo co-chaired the 14th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting, the top body steering bilateral ties, with visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Mr Teo noted that existing government-to-government projects are making "good progress".

"Most importantly, we are also keeping up with the times. So, for Tianjin and Suzhou, apart from developing the projects themselves further, we are also talking about how we can take the experience gained into third countries," Mr Teo said.

To that end, Singapore and China inked an agreement — one of seven signed on Thursday — to promote the replication of Tianjin Eco-city's development experience in other Chinese cities.

Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU), the two sides will also promote the replication of the eco-city's development experience in future regions covered by the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"This co-operation will bring the Eco-city a step closer to realising its vision to be a practical, replicable and scalable model for sustainable development," Singapore's National Development Ministry said in a statement.

The two sides will form a work group comprising senior government officials to oversee the implementation of the agreement.

It is still unclear at this point which cities these development experiences will be replicated in.

The Tianjin Eco-city project in north China, which encourages environmentally sustainable lifestyles, marks its 10th anniversary this year. There are more than 100,000 people living or working in the flagship project.

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke of the need for the Singapore and Chinese governments to ensure the success of their bilateral projects — including the Tianjin Eco-city — and for these successes to be replicated elsewhere in China. "I believe the two sides should continue to work together to build on past successes and open up new dimensions for the future," Mr Xi had said.

The Suzhou Industrial Park was established in 1994. The third flagship government-to-government project, the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, was launched in 2015.

"For Chongqing, the Southern Transport Corridor, in particular, and the whole connectivity initiative, fit in very well with China's own development priorities," Mr Teo said, referring to the new trade route developed by the two countries that links western China with South-east Asia.

Signalling the primacy of the China-led BRI, it was designated as a stand-alone agenda item in Thursday's JCBC meeting for the first time. The BRI aims to fund and build global transport and trade links in more than 60 countries.

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, the Prime Minister's Office said the co-chairs "welcomed more mutually beneficial co-operation under the BRI, including in infrastructural connectivity, financial connectivity, third country co-operation and training, and in professional and legal and judicial services, covering co-operation in mediation, arbitration and dispute resolution."

This was to keep up with the new priorities of the two countries, which are "natural partners along the Belt and Road", Mr Teo said, when kicking off the JCBC meeting in the morning.

On his part, Mr Han, who was appointed JCBC's co-chair in April, said that pushing ahead with co-operation on the BRI will remain one of the focal points in the two countries' efforts, as they plan for the long term.

Mr Han is the only one among China's four vice-premiers who is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's apex political body.

Both sides, meanwhile, also decided to institutionalise Singapore's co-operation with Shanghai in a new framework at the "mayor and minister level", Mr Teo told the media, without giving more details.

Singapore and China have also agreed to start negotiations on a mutual legal-assistance treaty for criminal matters. The two sides are also strengthening ties on the cultural front, he added.

Noting the strong people-to-people ties at all levels, Mr Teo said the JCBC and other bilateral efforts allow both governments, which are in the midst of leadership transitions, to build strong ties with one another.

Singapore is in the process of a leadership transition as political veterans progressively make way for fourth-generation leaders. China, too, has a new leadership in position, said Mr Teo.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Heat, who is touted as one of the frontrunners to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was on Thursday introduced as the deputy co-chair of the JCBC and Joint Steering Councils for the flagship government-to-government projects.

"(The meetings and various efforts allow) the leadership on both sides to get to know each other, work together on substantive projects, and this will take our relationship on a solid footing into the future," Mr Teo told reporters.

Besides the Tianjin Eco-city MOU, six other agreements were also signed on Thursday.

A Suzhou Industrial Park Attachment Programme will be set up. The programme, open to officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and its statutory boards, will allow for attachments of up to 60 days to Suzhou.

An MOU on intellectual property co-operation will also link the innovation ecosystems of Singapore and China.

Additionally, the National Arts Council Singapore and the China National Arts Fund also agreed to buttress exchanges in the arts, and encourage tie-ups between artists from both sides.

Mr Han will pay courtesy calls on President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday before concluding the visit.

 

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