Preliminary study to enhance China-Singapore FTA underway

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CNA | 21 Jul 2015

Preliminary study to enhance China-Singapore FTA underway

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hopes negotiations for the improved Free Trade Agreement will start this year, as the existing pact has been in place for many years, and China now has trade agreements with many countries.

By Eileen Poh, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: A preliminary study to enhance the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is underway and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hopes negotiations for the improved FTA will start this year. He was speaking at the FutureChina Global Forum on Tuesday (Jul 21).

Addressing about 500 businessmen, policymakers and academics, Mr Lee said Singapore hopes to secure the upgraded version of the FTA, as the existing pact has been in place for many years and China now has trade agreements with many countries.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Lee said the improved FTA with China will be more comprehensive than the existing pact. "We have agreed to a joint scoping study. This is quite difficult to translate in Mandarin but the Chinese have called it the ‘Working Group for the Negotiation of the Upgraded (FTA)’, or the ‘Working Group for the Negotiation of and Research on the Upgraded (FTA)’,” he said.

“There are many levels to it. But whatever it is, we are going to upgrade, and so we have to negotiate, and before negotiating, we have to research, and before we do so, there needs to be a working group. So works have started and we hope to start negotiations before the year ends,” he added.

The closing plenary, held at Shangri-La Hotel, focused largely on China-Singapore relations, although Mr Lee also spoke about issues closer to home, such as the low fertility rate.

Mr Lee said Singapore has tried to arrest the problem through immigration and importing foreign labour. These have become sensitive issues, Mr Lee said, citing Singaporeans’ reactions to the Population White Paper in 2013.

While the Government has tightened the flow of foreign labour, Mr Lee added that the Government needs to find appropriate solutions to problems.

He said: "We are the Government; we need to lead the country; we need to make the best possible decision for Singaporeans. Even on the most difficult issue, we need to make the best decision and be accountable to the people.

"There may be different views on how the policy should be, but I hope people understand that the Government’s intent is good. We are doing this for Singapore, and for Singaporeans."

When asked about the third government-to-government project between Singapore and China, Mr Lee said Singapore hopes to finalise the site by this year, after discussions with China.

Authorities had earlier announced three possible locations in the western region of China - Chongqing, Chengdu and Xi’an.

Mr Lee also said Singaporean authorities have visited the sites and the details are being worked out. The third project between Singapore and China will focus on modern services and connectivity. It comes after two earlier projects - the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City.

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