CHINA - THE "very good discussions" between Singapore and China during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent visit are helpful for upcoming talks on bilateral cooperation, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
In particular, Mr Teo said he believes that talks between PM Lee and China's top leaders - President Xi Jinping and Premier Li - have "set out very good guidance" for the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting set to be held in Singapore this year.
At PM Lee's meeting with Mr Xi, the latter had urged both sides to "fully utilise" mechanisms like the JCBC in boosting cooperation.
Mr Teo added that senior officials from both sides are meeting in two days' time to finalise the agenda for the JCBC, the highest- level body set up in 2003 to oversee political ties and economic collaboration between China and Singapore.
He is co-chairing the JCBC with Chinese executive vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, the first member of the apex Politburo Standing Committee to be co-chair.
Mr Li said the new Chinese leadership attached great importance to the Singapore-China bilateral relationship as shown by the appointment of Mr Zhang, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said later in a statement.
Mr Teo and Mr Li met for nearly 20 minutes yesterday on the sidelines of the China-ASEAN Expo held here. The annual fair promotes trade and investment between China and South-east Asia.
Mr Teo will deliver a speech at the opening of the expo today before returning to Singapore.
Started since 2004, this year's fair coincides with the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the strategic partnership between China and ASEAN this year. Trade between China and ASEAN surpassed US$400 billion (S$510 billion) last year and is on track to hit US$500 billion by 2015, said China's Ministry of Commerce.
Thirty-eight Singapore companies are taking part in the fair, including DBS Bank, TJ Cheng Law Corporation and S.K.Y. Birdnest.
Singapore's focus this year is on tourism, education, professional services and urban solutions, said Ms Edith Cheong, assistant executive director of the Singapore Business Federation, which is leading the delegation.
"It's a good platform to feature our capabilities," she said of the annual fair.
Mr Teo began his China trip on Sunday in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, where he visited the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, a joint project aimed at creating a business park for knowledge-based industries.
He also met Guangdong leaders, including party boss Hu Chunhua and governor Zhu Xiaodan. The DPM and Mr Hu reviewed the progress of the knowledge city project and reaffirmed strong cooperation between Singapore and Guangdong.
Separately, Mrs Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport, attended a special meeting of China and ASEAN transport ministers held on Monday alongside the expo.
All parties have expressed hopes of signing a pact on region-wide air connectivity in December when the transport ministers are slated to meet, she told Singapore reporters in Nanning.
Some 28 cities from China and 10 from ASEAN could be involved, said Mrs Teo.
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