BEIJING: Singapore can continue to make itself useful to China by helping the world's second-largest economy grow its service sector and its firms to go global, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has said.
There are three industries, in particular, to which Singapore can contribute: health care, education and urban solutions.
'As an Asian city-state that has to pay close attention to the quality of growth and our living environment, Singapore and its companies have accumulated valuable practical experience and expertise from developing and implementing solutions in these sectors,' he told guests at the 10th anniversary dinner here for the Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China (SingCham) last night.
And with Chinese companies setting their sights abroad, the city-state can also serve as their base, he said.
There are now more than 4,000 Chinese firms in Singapore, which is ranked eighth as an investment spot for the Chinese.
'We can build on this strong base by encouraging more partnerships between Singapore and Chinese companies to explore opportunities in the region,' Mr Teo told the guests, who included Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming.
Singapore businesses have the advantage of being familiar with South-east Asia, a region with half a billion people and an economy worth US$2 trillion (S$2.5 trillion), he noted.
With its global links and network of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with key markets, Singapore can be an attractive station for Chinese firms, he said.
It also offers access to talent, a pro-business environment as well as cultural and language affinities with China.
Both countries can play to each other's strengths, with Singapore's status as a global business hub a good match for Chinese companies' overseas push.
'A key reason why cooperation between Singapore and China has flourished is an understanding of each other's developmental priorities and how we can complement each other,' said Mr Teo.
China has tapped on Singapore's experience, he noted, in managing industrial parks and devising solutions to urban problems through the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City.
More than 40,000 Chinese officials have also visited the Republic to study its experiences in areas like public housing, citizen engagement and anti-corruption.
China has been the top draw for Singapore investments since 1997. Singapore was its fourth biggest investor last year.
The last decade has seen bilateral trade, for example, grow nearly five times to $101 billion. A China-Singapore FTA signed in 2008 was another milestone.
Singapore and China are key trade partners and complement each other, Mr Chen said in his speech. While Singapore is a major financial, shipping and trade hub, China is undergoing rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, with great potential in its domestic market, he said.
Mr Chen and Mr Teo said business associations like SingCham can boost cooperation and help firms find their feet in China.
They can also help link Singapore businesses with potential partners, said Mr Teo. Last September, SingCham hosted a networking event involving commerce groups from other countries, in the biggest such event in Beijing.
SingCham has done well, said Mr Teo, noting that it now has about 1,000 members and chapters from Sichuan to Fujian, since its founding in Beijing in 2002. It plans to have more branches and will merge with the Singapore-Shanghai Business Association later this year for a stronger presence in China, he added.
'Through its hard work, SingCham has also helped to develop a cohesive Singaporean community in China, which remains connected to Singapore,' he said.
Mr Teo wraps up his five-day visit to the Chinese capital today. -- Straits Times