LANZHOU, Gansu: As globally connected countries, Singapore and China are “natural partners” for the long-term development of the Belt and Road initiative, said Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday (Jul 5).
Referring to China’s ambitious infrastructure project, which aims to recreate the ancient Silk Road through building land and sea links like railways and ports to boost trade, Mr Teo noted several common objectives have driven bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
“Both our countries are committed to creating more opportunities for development and growth by strengthening global economic and trade cooperation to achieve win-win outcomes,” said Mr Teo.
Mr Teo was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 24th Lanzhou Investment and Trade Fair, where Singapore has been designated the country-of-honour.
Located by the famed Yellow River, Lanzhou is the capital of the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu and played a key role in the ancient Silk Road.
It is hoping to revive this with the new Silk Road by positioning itself as a key transport link and manufacturing hub.
Historically, Singapore has also been a key node along the ancient Maritime Silk Road, Mr Teo added.
SINGAPORE AND CHINA SHARE "COMMON INTEREST"
In his speech, he pointed out that both Singapore and China are trading nations.
Singapore’s trade is more than three times its gross domestic product and China is the top trading partner for more than 120 countries, including most ASEAN states.
Both countries are also dependent on maritime trade.
“Singapore and China are home to the world’s top two busiest container ports with economies that are heavily dependent on maritime trade,” said Mr Teo.
“Therefore, Singapore and China have a common interest in keeping the sea lanes open to vessels from all nations, upholding international law, and strengthening the multilateral trading system.”
Mr Teo added that by combining both countries’ strength and expertise, the long-term needs for developing the Belt and Road initiative can be better addressed.
PROMOTING BELT AND ROAD COOPERATION
In particular, he said Singapore and China are focused on promoting Belt and Road cooperation in four areas - infrastructure connectivity, financial connectivity, cooperation in third countries and professional services.
The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), which is the third joint project between both countries, is one example of how connectivity between Belt and Road projects can be improved.
A key innovation in this is the Southern Transport Corridor (STC), which links the southwestern Chinese municipality of Chongqing to Guangxi by rail and from Guangxi to Singapore and beyond by sea.
Strategically, Mr Teo said this multi-modal transport corridor is significant as it is the first substantive link between the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – which make up the Belt and Road.
“It is a new direct, reliable, secure and shorter link that is entirely within China, to connect the provinces in western China to the sea,” said Mr Teo, who visited both Guangxi and Chongqing on his nine-day trip to China. Both are working with Singapore on the STC.
The corridor has significantly reduced the time to transport goods between Chongqing and Singapore from three weeks to about one week.
“The CCI-STC is an open platform. Singapore welcomes all parties to use this,” Mr Teo noted.
“With more stakeholders, we can aggregate volume, build economies of scale and lower costs. This will benefit all parties. We can also facilitate trade by enhancing customs coordination, sharing and simplifying trade documentation to reduce time and transport costs.”
Mr Teo stressed that Singapore and China are "old friends" and enjoy deep and multi-faceted cooperation. This includes high-level exchanges, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang set to make his first visit to Singapore in November.
“Singapore and China have enjoyed a strong friendship for more than 40 years, through mutually beneficial cooperation,” said Mr Teo.
“Our partnership has progressed with the times, reflecting new needs and opportunities in line with the development of our two countries.”