BEIJING: Singapore and China have completed substantive negotiations on an upgraded free trade agreement that will boost market access for businesses, a day after the countries announced the upgrading of bilateral ties.
The countries also signed six agreements on Saturday (Apr 1), expanding cooperation in areas ranging from food safety to the arts and biodiversity conservation.
The Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) were inked between Singapore government officials in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s delegation and their Chinese counterparts, with Mr Lee and China’s new premier Li Qiang witnessing the signings at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Mr Lee was welcomed in an official ceremony and gave an opening speech before observing the signings. Saturday marks the end of his visit to China, which began on Monday.
On Friday, Mr Lee met China President Xi Jinping, and both leaders agreed to elevate bilateral relations to an “All-Round High-Quality Future-Oriented Partnership”.
In a joint statement issued by both countries on Saturday, Singapore said it reaffirmed its support for China’s development and welcomed its commitment to reform and opening up.
“China spoke highly of Singapore’s longstanding participation in China’s modernisation journey, which has laid a strong foundation for bilateral cooperation, and expressed support for Singapore’s continued growth and prosperity,” the statement said.
Singapore and China also said they look forward to new areas of cooperation and “making full use of inter-governmental mechanisms” such as the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation. The council is the top bilateral platform where both countries review their collaborations and map out new avenues for cooperation.
Both sides also welcomed the conclusion of substantive talks to upgrade the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA), which will improve market access for businesses from both countries to trade and invest in each other’s markets, the statement said.
The agreement was China’s first comprehensive bilateral FTA that it concluded with an Asian country, and was signed in 2008, said Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Singapore and China signed the CSFTA Upgrade Protocol in 2018. Since it came into force in 2019, bilateral trade and investments grew at 7 per cent and 7.7 per cent per year on average respectively, added the ministry.
Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor since 2013, while China has been Singapore’s top investment destination since 2007.
In 2020, negotiations were launched to upgrade the two countries’ free trade agreement. These include more liberal and transparent rules to level the playing field for investors and service suppliers between both countries.
The Chinese and Singapore governments are working through the legal aspects of documentation before the final agreements are signed. The agreement will undergo ratification before coming into force.
Both sides are looking to sign the protocol for the subsequent negotiations as soon as possible this year, the statement added.
The six agreements signed on Saturday included one on food security, with China and Singapore agreeing to exchange information on food safety regulations and to boost cooperation in food trade.
The two countries also inked MOUs on the management of international commercial disputes for the Belt and Road Initiative, and water and environmental research. Agreements were also signed to foster cultural and artistic exchanges and to work together on biodiversity conversation.
A seventh agreement on strengthening Singapore-Beijing cooperation and people-to-people exchanges was signed on Friday by Singapore’s ambassador to China Lui Tuck Yew and Beijing mayor Yin Yong.