S'pore to be focus of forums, talks planned for China-ASEAN Expo

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visiting the Singapore booth at the China-Asean Expo in Nanning back in 2006.

Sinegapore will be the focus of a slew of events at the upcoming 11th China-ASEAN Expo in Guangxi region's capital Nanning this September.

As Singapore is the "Country of Honour" this year, a series of forums and dialogues tailored to the city-state have been planned, including a roundtable between Singaporean leaders and chief executives of Chinese companies, officials said at a press briefing yesterday.

High-level leaders including Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong are expected to attend the expo, which will run from Sept 16 to 19. The annual fair promotes trade and investment between China and ASEAN, where trade volume between both rose 11 per cent to US$444 billion (S$550 billion) last year.

Yesterday, Chinese officials also highlighted areas of potential growth for both Singapore and ASEAN firms under the expo's 2014 theme of building a maritime silk route of the 21st century.

Guangxi Vice-Governor Zhang Xiaoqin noted that Singapore was an important node in the maritime silk route. It was also vital in the development of the Nanning-Singapore economic corridor, a cross-border channel that also includes Hanoi in Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

"Whether in the areas of investment or trade, Singapore has very close links with China," he said. "We're also finding ways to increase ties between Guangxi and Singapore firms in areas like shipping and logistics."

But officials played down the impact that strained ties between China and ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam, might have on trade figures. Beijing and Hanoi are embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

"These disputes should not colour China-ASEAN relations as a whole," said Mr Chen Zhou, director of the Asian Affairs Department of the Ministry of Commerce, emphasising the expo's role as a platform for cooperation instead.

This article was first published on July 23, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.