China keen to review and improve FTA with ASEAN: PM Lee

CNA | 26 Aug 2013

China keen to review and improve FTA with ASEAN: PM Lee

By Kristine Lim and Teo Xuanwei

BEIJING: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in China for a one-week visit, has said that China is keen to review and improve its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and that Singapore will do its part in this development.

Singapore has remained at the forefront of China’s cooperation with ASEAN countries.

For instance, Singapore is the only ASEAN member to sign an FTA with China.

The size of bilateral currency swap is also the largest between China and ASEAN countries.

Mr Lee was speaking to reporters about issues he discussed in a meeting on Monday morning with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People.

Mr Lee added that China plays a very important role in ASEAN’s context of cooperation with many countries in the world and developing an open region.

Mr Lee also exchanged views with Premier Li on the dispute between China and some ASEAN members regarding the South China Sea, saying he explained to the Chinese leader that Singapore has always maintained a consistent position that the issue should be managed peacefully and in accordance with international law.

"And we hope that all countries will exercise moderation and restraint and maintain a peaceful, and not tense environment, in Southeast Asia," said Mr Lee.

Premier Li and Mr Lee also agreed to explore new collaborative opportunities in China’s less developed regions.

In the afternoon, Prime Minister Lee met Chinese President Xi Jinping, who described the visit as timely, reflecting the importance of Singapore-China ties.

President Xi also reiterated China’s commitment for peaceful development and friendly ties with its neighbours including Singapore.

Both leaders sought to deepen political trust and pragmatic cooperation, with PM Lee describing the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) as an important mechanism.

Mr Lee said: "On the Chinese side, they are taking this very seriously because they have put Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli in charge, who is the executive Vice-Premier.

"We have got DPM Teo Chee Hean on our side. So both of us are taking it very seriously and I think JCBC has a very clear mandate to work, not just on existing areas, but also new areas of cooperation."

Both sides pledged to ensure the success of existing projects such as the Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-city and Jilin Food Zone. They also want to replicate those successes in other parts of China.

Since establishing diplomatic relations 23 years ago, bilateral trade between Singapore and China increased about 24 times.

The latest trip will also give Prime Minister Lee a closer look at what’s happening on the ground in the less developed parts of China, as Singapore seeks to explore new areas of cooperation, for instance, in social management, environmental protection, and financial services.

Earlier Monday, PM Lee was received by Premier Li in an official welcome ceremony.

Premier Li has accepted PM Lee’s invitation to visit Singapore some time to deliver a lecture on China’s view of the world and to foster ties between China and ASEAN.

Prime Minister Lee will also visit Xinjiang and Liaoning during his week-long trip to China.

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source: CNA