The Straits Times | 5 November 2018
China and Singapore have concluded talks on upgrade of FTA: MTI
by Chong Koh Ping
SHANGHAI - Singapore and China have concluded negotiations on an upgraded free trade pact (FTA) between the two countries, said Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on Monday (Nov 5).
This was announced after a meeting between Mr Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry and Mr Fu Ziying, one of China’s Vice Commerce Ministers and its International Trade Representative, on the sidelines of the inaugural China International Import Expo in Shanghai.
Both countries are "working towards the signing of the upgrade protocol later this year", MTI said in a statement on Monday.
In an interview with a Chinese media outlet last week, Mr Chan had said that the upgraded FTA is expected to be signed when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Singapore next week.
With the enhanced trade pact, Singapore businesses can expect greater trade facilitation and investment protection in China, fewer barriers to investing in the country and more access to its services sector.
The improved FTA will also extend cooperation in legal and financial services, as well as e-commerce and the environment.
Negotiations for the upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) began in November 2015 after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Singapore.
The current FTA between the two countries came into force in January 2009 and was China’s first with an Asian country.
Under the current agreement, 95 per cent of Singapore’s exports to China are already duty free, while there are no tariffs on all Chinese exports to Singapore.
Singapore and Chinese companies in hospital services and selected business services sectors enjoy preferential access in each other’s markets. In addition, Chinese companies in the education services sector also enjoy greater access to Singapore.
Mr Chan said: "The conclusion of the CSFTA upgrade negotiations marks an important step forward for bilateral economic relations between Singapore and China."
Last year, Singapore was China’s largest overseas investment destination along the Belt and Road, drawing in about 22 per cent of China’s total outbound investments to the Belt and Road countries. Total bilateral trade between the two countries reached $137.1 billion.
In addition, China has been Singapore’s top investment destination since 1997 as well as the Republic’s largest trading partner since 2013.
Mr Chan noted that the upgrade signals both countries’ "joint commitment towards greater economic collaboration and trade liberalisation".
"Singapore businesses can expect to enjoy greater access to the vast Chinese market and greater certainty in their investments when the upgraded CSFTA takes effect," he added.
Separately, Mr Chan officiated the launch of the Shanghai chapter of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China on Monday and held a closed-door dialogue with Singaporeans living in Shanghai.