16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation and Related Joint Steering Council Meetings

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 8 December 2020

Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat co-chaired the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation and Related Joint Steering Council Meetings in Singapore on 8 December 2020.


Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat co-chaired the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), 21st China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) Joint Steering Council (JSC), 12th Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City (SSTEC) JSC and 4th China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity (CCI) JSC meetings with Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China and Vice Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Han Zheng on 8 December 2020 via videoconference.

DPM Heng and Vice Premier Han had a bilateral meeting prior to the 16th JCBC and JSC meetings. They noted that 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations and reaffirmed the excellent bilateral ties built on a firm foundation of substantive and multi-faceted cooperation. They expressed appreciation for the mutual support between Singapore and China during the COVID-19 pandemic and looked forward to working closely to resume economic activity, enhance connectivity and explore new areas of cooperation.

16th JCBC saw ten Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and agreements concluded

The 16th JCBC meeting reviewed bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); economic cooperation, trade and innovation; financial cooperation; public health cooperation; people-to-people exchanges, and sustainable development; as well as the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, which is a state-level bilateral cooperation project. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, both sides agreed to expand the agenda to include public health cooperation as a new pillar of cooperation. The co-Chairs welcomed the MOUs on Health Cooperation and Health Policy Fellowship Exchange, and agreed to explore collaboration in vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to enhance connectivity and free trade. Deputy Prime Minister Heng and Vice Premier Han expressed willingness to discuss ideas to open up borders, including better utilising the Singapore China Fast Lane and increasing flight frequency, and restore normal people-to-people exchanges at an appropriate time. They also announced the commencement of negotiations on the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Work Programme for Subsequent Negotiations. They agreed that Singapore and China can forge closer economic cooperation, including in China’s regional development strategies, to bring benefits to the businesses and peoples of both countries.

Both sides exchanged views on ways to strengthen collaboration in third party markets under the BRI. They agreed to establish a working group to study the feasibility of co-developing a dispute resolution mechanism tailored to Asia’s needs. Both sides further reaffirmed the deepening legal and judicial cooperation, and noted that a significant milestone had been achieved with the appointments of a Singapore judge and a Singapore lawyer to the International Commercial Experts Committee of the People’s Republic of China Supreme People’s Court.

The co-Chairs also agreed that Singapore and China should continue to deepen cooperation in areas such as finance, smart cities, digitalisation, innovation, China’s regional development and development strategies, education, human resource development, social governance, environmental protection and sustainable development, agri-food trade, food security, and cultural and tourism exchanges. Singapore and China would also enhance collaboration in new areas that would address our common challenges as both countries emerge from the pandemic.

Ten MOUs and agreements were concluded at the JCBC:

(a) MOU on Health Cooperation;

(b) MOU on Food Safety Cooperation;

(c) MOU on China-Singapore (Tianjin) Customs Twinning Cooperation;

(d) MOU on the Mutual Translation and Publication of Singapore China Classics;

(e) MOU on the Establishment of a Working Group to Study the Feasibility of Co-Developing a Dispute Resolution Mechanism;

(f) MOU on Health Policy Fellowship Exchange;

(g) Joint Paper on Enhancing Environmental Cooperation in the Post COVID-19 Era;

(h) MOU on Biomedical Cooperation between Singapore and the SIP;

(i) MOU on Nanyang Technological University China (West) Entrepreneurship and Innovation Project; and,

(j) Agreement on Deepening Cooperation on the Sino-Singapore International Joint Research Institute.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations, the co-Chairs witnessed the launch of a commemorative microsite presented by Business China, and a joint commemorative philatelic issue by SingPost and China Post.

21st SIP JSC Meeting

The 21st SIP JSC meeting commended the SIP for its continued pioneering role in China’s development, such as in China’s further opening-up and regional development strategies, including the Yangtze River Delta Regional Integration initiative. In tandem with the SIP’s transformation beyond a traditional industrial park, both sides will strengthen cooperation in new areas such as healthcare and biomedical services, and modern services, while leveraging the China (Jiangsu) Pilot Free Trade Zone to testbed innovations. Both sides will also continue to strengthen ties through software and people-to-people exchanges.

12th SSTEC JSC Meeting

At the 12th SSTEC JSC meeting, Singapore and China reaffirmed the positioning of the Tianjin Eco-City as a leading smart and eco-city at the forefront of sustainable development. Both sides agreed to continue to deepen efforts in promoting replication of the Eco-City’s development experience to other cities in China and countries along the Belt and Road.

4th CCI JSC Meeting

The 4th CCI JSC meeting affirmed the good progress made by the CCI in the four priority areas of collaboration – financial services, aviation, transport and logistics, and information and communications technology. In particular, the CCI-New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (CCI-ILSTC) has played a useful role in promoting trade and connectivity, and ensuring the resilience of supply chains between Southeast Asia and Western China through the mutual hubs of Singapore and Chongqing amidst the pandemic.

On the Singapore side, the JCBC and related JSC meetings were attended by Minister (Foreign Affairs) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister (Health) Gan Kim Yong, Minister (Communications and Information) S Iswaran, Minister (Sustainability and the Environment) Grace Fu, Minister (Trade and Industry) Chan Chun Sing, Minister (Social and Family Development) and Second Minister (Health) Masagos Zulkifli, Minister (Transport) Ong Ye Kung, Minister (Manpower) and Second Minister (Home Affairs) Josephine Teo, Minister (National Development) and Minister-in-charge (Social Services Integration) Desmond Lee, and Minister (Culture, Community and Youth) and Second Minister (Law) Edwin Tong.

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