15 May 2012
Your Excellency Mr Chen Deming
Minister of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China
Ms Dorothy Seet
Chairperson, Singapore Chamber of Commerce & Industry in China
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening. It gives me great pleasure to join you today to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, or SingCham. The past decade has seen China-Singapore cooperation grow from strength to strength, and broaden in scope to cover many aspects such as economic, financial, cultural and people-to-people cooperation.
SingCham’s Contributions to Bilateral Economic Relations
2. It has been a busy and fruitful decade for Singapore companies operating in China. SingCham has done well in its first ten years. Founded in Beijing in 2002 with only 12 founding members, SingCham now has Chapters in Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan and Tianjin, with a total membership of about 1,000. SingCham has also forged a strategic partnership with the Singapore Business Federation, Singapore’s apex business chamber with 18,000 companies under its wings.
3. SingCham is one of the largest foreign business chambers in China. It is an important channel for Singapore businesses that are interested to operate in China. Through its hard work, SingCham has also helped to develop a cohesive Singaporean community in China, which remains connected to Singapore.
4. I am also happy that SingCham also plans to set up more Chapters. SingCham will also merge with the Singapore-Shanghai Business Association later this year for a more diverse and stronger presence in China.
Singapore-China Economic Relations
5. Singapore and China enjoy strong ties – be it in the government, business or people sectors. In terms of economic cooperation, bilateral trade has increased almost five times over the last ten years to reach S$101 billion in 2011. China has been Singapore’s top investment destination since 1997, while Singapore was China’s 4th largest investor in 2011.
6. Our special ties are perhaps best reflected in the two Government-to-Government projects: the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City. The signing of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in 2008 added another significant milestone in our bilateral economic relations.
7. 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. For instance, through our G-to-G projects, China has decided to tap on Singapore’s experience in industrial park management and urban solutions, adapting them to China’s circumstances.
8. Over the years, more than 40,000 Chinese officials have also visited Singapore to exchange views and experiences in areas such as urban planning, public housing, social security, citizen engagement, anti-corruption and business law.
9. While China’s national conditions are different from Singapore’s, both countries can share experiences and learn from each other, to find creative and better solutions to confront common challenges. Yesterday, I co-chaired with Minister Li Yuanchao of the Central Organisation Department for the third time, a forum on leadership. We had many useful exchanges yesterday on the topic of “Leadership in the Age of New Media”. Later this year, we will be holding the annual high-level Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting, co-chaired by Vice Premier Wang Qishan and myself. This is an important platform for both countries to identify new opportunities to broaden such cooperation.Mutual exchanges and cooperation also take place through the seven provincial business councils, as well as the efforts and initiatives of business associations like SingCham.
China’s Growth and Opportunities for Further Economic Cooperation
10. Despite challenging global economic conditions, China’s economy continues to perform strongly. China’s GDP grew 9.2% last year, the highest for any major economy. While the global outlook remains uncertain, China looks set to continue on a positive growth path. I would like to highlight two particular trends in the Chinese economy which will create more opportunities for cooperation between Singapore and China.
11. First, China has placed the development of its services sector as a priority in its 12th Five-Year Plan. The growth of China’s services sector plays an important role in helping China shift to an economic growth model less reliant on export-oriented manufacturing. In addition, China’s aim to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth means that it will invest heavily in services such as health-care, education and urban solutions.
12. 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. I am thus confident that Singapore, through our services providers, can contribute to China’s next stage of development.
13. In this regard, I am happy that Singapore will be participating in the inaugural China (Beijing) International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) later this month. I strongly encourage our companies to leverage on this event to showcase their capabilities, and reach out to potential partners.
14. Second, globally competitive Chinese companies are now investing in emerging and developed markets. I am encouraged to see the growing presence of Chinese companies in Singapore. Singapore’s global connectivity, network of FTAs with key markets, access to talent, pro-business environment, and cultural and language affinities with China, make Singapore an attractive base for Chinese companies to gain access to many markets and “go global”.
15. Singapore was the 8th largest investment destination for Chinese companies in 2011, and there are now over 4,000 Chinese companies in Singapore. We can build on this strong base by encouraging more partnerships between Singapore and Chinese companies to explore opportunities in the region. For example, the Southeast Asian market has a total population of over half a billion and a combined GDP of close to US$2 trillion1. Singapore companies are familiar with the region, and have established their track record in offering turnkey integrated solutions.
Important Role of Business Associations
16. Business associations such as SingCham play an important role in fostering cooperation between Singapore and China in these growth areas. Being in China and having a network of contacts, they provide information, advice and services to Singapore companies venturing into China. They can also help to build links between Singapore companies and potential partners. For example, SingCham hosted Beijing’s biggest inter-Chamber event, the All Chamber Networking Event in September 2011. Finally, they represent members’ views and provide constructive feedback to the Chinese government when it consults stakeholders on new policies.
17. As China continues to grow, new opportunities for cooperation between Singapore and China will emerge. Business associations such as SingCham will play an increasingly important role in helping us to turn these opportunities into reality. I encourage SingCham to continue to grow its membership and provide new and relevant services to its members. With a committed leadership and strong network, I am confident that SingCham will help to bring economic cooperation between Singapore and China to even greater heights.
18. I wish everyone a pleasant evening ahead. Thank you.
1 ASEAN Secretariat, “ASEAN Community in Figures 2011”, April 2012. (http://www.aseansec.org/documents/ASEAN%20community%20in%20figures.pdf)