China will treat businesses equally, continue to uphold free trade: Li Keqiang

China will treat businesses equally, continue to uphold free trade: Li Keqiang

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (left) shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on May 23, 2019. (Photo: MCI)

BEIJING: China will always treat all businesses registered in the country as equals, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as he reiterated Beijing's commitment to uphold rules-based free trade.   

He made the assurances when he met Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in Beijing on Thursday (May 23), amid escalating trade tensions with the United States.

Mr Li said China is committed to opening up, adding that it welcomes business investments from Singapore and other countries.

“China will continue to deepen opening up, and the door of openness will only open wider here in China,” said Mr Li.

“We will as always treat all the businesses registered in China as equals and foster a level playing field and a more enabling business environment for their resources in China.”

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (left) meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on May 23, 2019. (Photo: MCI)

The US, in the ongoing trade war, has taken issue with China over its industrial subsidies and market access for companies.

China, on the other hand, opposes what it sees as protectionism under the Trump administration’s America First policy.

"We in China will continue to uphold rules-based free trade because we believe that this is beneficial for peace and development of the world," said Mr Li.

On Sino-Singapore ties, he said trade between the two countries has come a long way since diplomatic relations were established, adding that this has helped boost the relationship as well. 

Mr Li also congratulated Mr Heng on his recent appointment as Deputy Prime Minister, and expressed China's interest in continuing to work with Singapore. 

Mr Heng is on an eight day visit to China which began on Wednesday, his first to the country since becoming Deputy Prime Minister earlier this month.

READ: Singapore and China reaffirm ties, importance of rules-based trading system

Heng Swee Keat in China (1)
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat met Minister of the Communist Party’s International Department Song Tao on May 23, 2019. (Photo: MCI)

On his part, Mr Heng expressed confidence that both countries can build on its strong bilateral relations and take it to the next level.

He noted that in the past year, Premier Li has made an official visit to Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Halimah Yacob have also met Premier Li while visiting Beijing.

“The fact that you have spent so much time with us shows the importance and attention given to our bilateral relations,” said Mr Heng.

The two leaders also welcomed the progress in current areas of collaboration and discussed new opportunities for cooperation.

This includes China’s Greater Bay Area and Yangtze River Delta region.

Later in the day, Mr Heng met director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office Yang Jiechi, who is also a member of the Communist Party of China’s politburo.

He also held discussions with the Minister of the Communist Party’s International Department Song Tao.

Singapore DPM Heng Swee Keat meets with China's Song Tao
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (left) meets with China's Minister of the Communist Party’s International Department Song Tao. (Photo: MCI)

They welcomed the positive momentum in bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

Mr Heng heads to Shanghai next where he will chair the inaugural meeting of the new Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council - the eighth business council between Singapore and China.

Source: CNA/zl(gs)

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