Third Sino-S'pore venture 'must have impact across China'

Third Sino-S'pore venture 'must have impact across China'
DPM Teo Chee Hean.

The third Sino-Singapore joint venture must be one that breaks new ground and has a nation- wide impact in China, and not just one that offers economic benefits on the local level where it is located, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

Speaking at the end of a four- day visit to China, DPM Teo told reporters it was premature to narrow down where it would be located, saying only that Singapore officials have visited Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, Chongqing municipality and Xinjiang, and the Guangxi and Ningxia regions to explore the proposal first mooted by Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli last October.

They will report back to Mr Teo and Mr Zhang at the next meeting of the high-level Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, which the two men co-chair.

One thing was clear, Mr Teo said. The third joint venture must be in an area that is important to the Chinese government in its broad development journey, and in which Singapore has expertise and so can contribute.

This would allow it to be a model for developments across China, like the first two Sino-Singapore projects were, Mr Teo stressed. The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in 1994 and the Tianjin Eco-City in 2008 "were executed at a local level (but with) an impact beyond the immediate pro- ject itself".

"In the early 1990s... the Chinese were interested in developing well-planned, integrated industrial parks. Of course, China is now able to develop such industrial parks... on its own and has done so very successfully," he said.

"The Tianjin Eco-City is... in response to China's desire to develop their cities and new areas in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. It breaks new ground."

Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing said the two projects showed that Singapore was not just looking for short-term commercial benefits in its joint ventures with China.

The next one "will be a long- term project and demonstrate our confidence and commitment in China". It will also be a platform for the new generation of leadership in China and Singapore to solidify ties, he added.

Mr Teo and Mr Chan met one such Chinese leader yesterday: Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai, widely seen as a rising star with the potential to become the next premier or president. Mr Chan called Mr Sun "a dynamic man" who clearly knows what he wants to achieve.

Chongqing, with a population of 30 million, has ambitions to be the economic centre of the vast, western inland region. But its rapid development took a hit when its former party boss Bo Xilai was abruptly sacked and later jailed for corruption.

In discussing the third joint venture, Mr Teo stressed the gain to Singapore businessmen.

Singapore is already the second-largest foreign investor in Chongqing and the third-largest in Sichuan.

"In the same way that Singaporean companies have benefited from the positive atmospherics and demonstration of (their) capability in Suzhou and Tianjin, I think it will bring benefits to Singapore businesses as well."

He added that both those projects got an unexpected boost recently in becoming the ground zero of China's efforts to internationalise its currency.

It is now possible for firms in SIP and Tianjin Eco-City to conduct cross-border transactions in yuan.

China-backed bank to work with other lenders

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the nascent China-backed institution that will finance Asian countries' building needs, will work hand-in-hand with other multilateral lending agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

He and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli agreed on this during their meeting earlier this week, he said, when he expressed Singapore's intention to accept China's invitation to be a founding member of the bank.

The AIIB is widely seen as part of China's efforts to dilute the influence of existing multilateral financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the ADB, which it believes is too dominated by the United States, Europe and Japan. Last month, China set up the New Development Bank with its Brics partners Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa. Beijing is pushing for the AIIB to be realised this year.

Asked about the geopolitical implications of Singapore joining the AIIB effort, Mr Teo said that he and Mr Zhang agreed that the bank should have an inclusive membership, work with other agencies like the World Bank and ADB, and adopt good governance standards.

"(These are) principles which all member nations would want to see as well," he said.

This article was first published on August 01, 2014.
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