BEIJING — China and Singapore pledged to cooperate on trade and regional infrastructure projects, with the foreign ministers of both sides agreeing to work more closely on China’s “Belt and Road” trade and infrastructure initiative.
Speaking on Monday after meeting with China Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that China and Singapore would also do their best to expedite talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Dr Balakrishnan described ties as “strong” and said China’s relationship with South-east Asia was “stable, calm and positive”.
“We had in depth talks and reached a lot of consensus on bilateral, regional issues and shared interests,” Mr Wang said. “Both of us are of the view that, against the background of a backlash against globalisation, China and Singapore, as the champions of regional integration, need to work together to address challenges and uphold common interests.”
Ties between both sides have come into the spotlight in recent months. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not receive a formal invitation from China to attend a Belt and Road summit in May, Bloomberg News reported last month. A shipment of Singaporean infantry carrier vehicles that had been used in military exercises in Taiwan was seized and held in Hong Kong for two months before being released in January.
Dr Balakrishnan described Singapore as a “strong believer and supporter” of the Belt and Road plan and pledged to establish a financial cooperation platform with China.
“China-Singapore relations are in good working order,” he said. “They are strong, with the potential to grow even stronger.”
The two countries accounted for US$66 billion (S$91.3 billion) in two-way trade last year, representing 13 per cent of Singapore’s global total. Singapore is also China’s second-largest investor, with US$6.18 billion last year, according to official China figures.
Mr Wang said Singapore was an important clearance centre for the yuan.
“To advance the Belt and Road initiative we need financing,” he said. “We hope that cooperation with Singapore will draw upon Singapore’s strengths as a financial centre.”