Singapore and China pledge deeper co-operation in areas from public health to trade with the signing of a landmark number of 10 agreements at the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) between both countries, which was co-chaired by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng.
According to Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, the substantive agenda this year reflects the breadth and depth of our cooperation. This builds on a strong foundation established by leaders on both sides and successive generations of JCBC co-chairs. The continued commitment to joint projects and collaboration amid the challenging Covid-19 pandemic was testament to the resilience of ties between the two countries.
This year’s meeting was also of “special significance”, as 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Singapore’s diplomatic relations with China. Through the three decades of diplomatic ties and three government-to government projects, “generations” of people have been brought together, “creating a bond that underpins a deep and long-lasting friendship”.
Among the numerous agreements signed were two memoranda of understanding (MOUs) focused on deepening cooperation in public health – a new pillar of partnership under the JCBC.
Under one MOU, Singapore’s health ministry will work with China’s National Health Commission to strengthen collaboration in areas such as the prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases, health promotion and primary health care.
Another MOU on health policy fellowship exchange was renewed, after it was first signed in 2013. With it, both sides will exchange health fellows to work at institutions involved in the areas of disease prevention and control.
The cooperation on public health would include working together on vaccine development, production and distribution, as well as diagnostics and therapeutics for Covid-19.
Another agreement pledged to strengthen cooperation between biomedical companies from Singapore and the Suzhou Industrial Park in eastern China, in areas such as the commercialisation of products.
The partnership will also facilitate the testing of new concepts in a free trade zone in the Jiangsu province, expanding market opportunities for Singapore’s biomedical firms.
One other agreement involved an enhanced MOU on environmental sustainability, based on a version that was signed in 2018.
The agreement on the joint paper on enhancing cooperation in this area will see Singapore and China “strengthening collective action through multilateral cooperation”, according to the Sustainability and Environment Ministry.
Over the next two years, Singapore and China will co-operate at regional and international platforms such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and also the discussions about the Belt and Road International Green Development,” Grace Fu, who heads the ministry said in a statement.
Both sides will also enhance cooperation on zero waste initiatives at the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City.
In addition, Singapore and China will exchange best practices in carbon pricing and the development of monitoring, reporting and verification requirements.
A separate MOU on customs twinning will see China and Singapore strengthening trade facilitation and security.
Under this, both sides will share best practices on the application of new technologies and enhance risk management by exchanging permit data.
The two countries also committed to more collaboration on dispute resolution, food safety, environmental action and knowledge exchanges between research institutions.
At the JCBC, both sides also marked key milestones in bilateral projects, such as the 5th anniversary of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity (CCI) and the 10th anniversary of the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City.
According to the Minister-in-charge of the Chongqing initiative Josephine Teo, there has been “good progress” in the areas it prioritised for collaboration, including financial services and logistics. The theme of connectivity has also been useful, especially in a pandemic as supply chains have been severely impacted, but looking at the CCI corridor, it has proven to be a viable alternative in serving as a trade route for goods flow.
During the discussion with the Chinese counterpart, the Deputy Prime Minister also noted three areas for further cooperation with China – in connectivity, digitalisation and sustainable development – which would be crucial for a post-pandemic world.
In addition, they also discussed to further open up borders between the two, including better utilising fast lanes, increasing the frequency of flights and restoring normal people-to-people exchanges “at an appropriate time”.