THE likely move to make Shanghai a free trade zone (FTZ) will not be a threat to Singapore as a financial hub, but an opportunity, according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"It will be mutually beneficial and will offer new opportunities to our financial institutions and beyond," he told Nanfang Daily, a leading newspaper in Guangzhou.
Mr Lee, who arrived in this capital city of Guangdong on Thursday, said: "Financial institutions in Singapore do a lot of business with other leading financial centres like New York and London. So as China's financial sector matures and opens up, it will create more opportunities to deepen ties with Singapore."
The Shanghai FTZ is part of China's effort to experiment with new financial rules and, if successful, possibly extend them to other parts of the country. The transcript of Mr Lee's interview by Nanfang Daily was released to the Singapore media late on Wednesday.
Cooperation between China and Singapore is already progressing at all levels and on multiple fronts, the Singapore leader indicated in the interview.
There are significant government to government projects, which included the successful Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park; the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, which is still in the works; and the Sino- Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, which is showing good promise though still in its early phase.
And Mr Lee hinted that there are more such projects in the pipeline.
"Currently, together with the Chinese government, we are exploring starting another project in China's Western region," he said. "We want to conceive a project that fits in with China's priorities, will be fully supported by the local authorities and will be commercially viable."
He said the business sectors of the two countries have also "increased in depth and breadth".
China is Singapore's largest trading partner while Singapore is China's 11th largest trading partner.
Singapore was China's largest foreign investor last year while China was Singapore's fifth largest Asian investor in 2012.
"Singapore companies are also investing throughout China, going beyond coastal regions to Central and Western China," Mr Lee added. "Our companies are diverse, from manufacturing and real estate to service sectors such as water and waste management, healthcare, education, transportation, retail and financial sectors. Likewise, many Chinese companies are investing in Singapore, over 5,200 of them."
To take China-Singapore ties to the next level, he said both the Chinese and Singapore governments "must set the framework for good relations and create a conductive business environment through fostering free trade and investments".
"Then our businesses can create and pursue new opportunities, and our people can forge closer friendships," said Mr Lee.
He said he hopes to explore new ideas to strengthen Singapore-Guangdong ties when he meets the province's leaders in the next two days.
Guangdong was Singapore's top trading provincial partner in China in 2013 and Singapore was the province's biggest foreign investor.
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