S'pore, China looking at possible third joint project

S'pore, China looking at possible third joint project

Singapore and China are exploring the possibility of a third government-to-government project after the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) and the Tianjin Eco-city.

The new joint venture was one of the topics discussed by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli here yesterday at a meeting that lasted more than an hour.

Mr Teo also "expressed Singapore's intent to accept China's invitation" to be a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), said the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement.

Mr Teo is in China for the second Singapore-China Social Governance Forum and to meet Chinese leaders.

Mr Zhang suggested a third joint venture last October, during a meeting of the high-level Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, which he and Mr Teo co-chair.

The new project would be in a yet-to-be-decided site in the western region of China. While less developed than the country's coastal east, it is the focus of a big urbanisation and modernisation push by the Chinese government.

No other details of the new joint venture were available; the Singapore MFA would say only that Singapore officials have been visiting China's western cities in exploration of the proposal.

Singapore's first government- to-government project with China was the SIP, which marks its 20th anniversary this year. It was set up in eastern Jiangsu province in 1994.

Envisioned as a magnet for foreign investment and high-tech industries in Singapore's mould, the 288 sq km park now boasts investments from close to a hundred of the world's top 500 companies.

The 30 sq km Tianjin Eco-city, which broke ground in 2008, was conceived as a model of ecologically conscious urban design. It has 10,000 residents and the aim is to grow this to 350,000 by 2020.

But the two joint ventures have not been without controversy. The SIP's early years were marred by the Suzhou government (which had only a 35 per cent stake in it) promoting an alternative park to foreign investors. The situation improved after the Singapore Government reduced its stake from 65 per cent to 35 per cent in 2001.

Tianjin Eco-city has grown more slowly than expected, Singapore officials have acknowledged. The building of its transport infrastructure, essential in attracting residents, has been delayed.

During their meeting yesterday, Mr Teo and Mr Zhang discussed "how the AIIB can complement existing multilateral development banks, stay open and inclusive, and draw upon the best practices of existing multilateral development banks in terms of governance and operations", said MFA.

The China-led bank, which is expected to have an initial fund of US$50 billion (S$62 billion) mostly from China, is meant to finance infrastructure building in the region. Analysts have said China's aim is for the new lending agency to rival the Japanese-controlled Asian Development Bank and other multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank.

Mr Teo, who is accompanied on his trip by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan and Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling, will meet Chinese Communist Party Organisation Department chief Zhao Leji today before leaving Beijing for Chongqing.


This article was first published on July 29, 2014.
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