China and Singapore have agreed to upgrade their bilateral free-trade pact, allowing greater market access for Singaporean employers to the giant northern market.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Singapore for a five-day visit and signed several deals with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to upgrade the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement after eight rounds of separate negotiations since 2015.
The agreement gives Singapore preferential access, including lower tariffs, for petrochemical exports and increased access to China’s legal, maritime and construction services sectors.
Li stressed the importance of free trade, as China faces a looming trade war with the US. Donald Trump accuses Beijing of violating its market-opening obligations and tariffs have been imposed on billions of dollars of each other’s goods.
The northeast Asian giant and Asean minnow have worked together in various government-to-government projects, including Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-City and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.
“China and Singapore have a special co-operative relationship because there are profound cultural and people-to-people exchanges between us,” the Chinese prime minister said.
“We both safeguard multilateralism and free trade. We also keep the peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he told the media in Singapore.
Li is also due to participate in an Asean summit this week in the Lion City.
In 1976, Singapore’s former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew made his inaugural visit to China and exactly 40 years ago then reforming Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore.
Li’s Singaporean counterpart Lee said China and Asean “share a common interest in upholding an open, rules-based multilateral order”.
“Singapore and China are like-minded partners in many areas even though we have different circumstances and constraints,” he added.
“But I believe we can continue to tap into our complementary strengths, deepen co-operation and make sure that our all-around co-operative partnership continues to progress with the times.”
China and Singapore signed 11 memoranda of understanding yesterday (Monday). They upgraded a free-trade agreement and stepped up co-operation in urban planning.
They also agreed to boost cooperation in e-commerce and on the environment.
Lee said: “I believe that we can continue to tap on our complementary strengths, deepen co-operation and make sure that our all-round co-operative partnership continues to progress with the times.”
The two premiers signed a deal on the Southern Transport Corridor, which is being renamed the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor. It aims to connect western China and Asean through rail and sea.
China and Singapore have deep cultural connections. Picture credit: Flickr