Transcript of Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Dinner hosted In honour of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Your Excellency Mr Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Ladies and gentlemen
May I give a warm welcome to Premier Li, who is making his first Official Visit to Singapore as Premier, and his delegation. We last met in April in Beijing when I was on my way to attend the Bo’ao Forum. And I am very happy finally to be able to reciprocate Premier Li’s warm hospitality during my numerous visits to China. Premier Li and I had a good discussion earlier on our bilateral relations, as well as regional and global developments. I look forward to further exchanges of views with him at the ASEAN meetings in the coming days.
The analects quotes Confucius as saying, “有朋自远方来，不亦乐乎？” It means, “If you have a friend coming from afar, what a pleasure it is.”
Premier Li’s visit today happens on a significant anniversary in our bilateral relations. On this very day 40 years ago, the 12 of November 1978, Mr Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore. Mr Deng’s trip followed Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s first visit to China in 1976, and the two trips laid the strong foundation for our bilateral relations.
Since then, after 40 years of reform and liberalisation, China has been totally transformed, and so has cooperation between China and Singapore. Our first flagship Government-to-Government project, the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), was launched in 1994. The SIP has been a model for similar township developments across China, including in Chuzhou, in Anhui, which is the Premier’s hometown.
The Tianjin Eco-City (TEC) celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and the eco-city has made good progress in becoming a model of sustainable development that is practicable, replicable and scalable in China and beyond.
The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, the CCI, has made good progress since its launch in 2015. As part of the CCI, the CCI-New International Land Sea Trade Corridor (CCI-ILSTC) has connected the Belt and the Road and reduced the distance between Singapore, the Western regions of China, and beyond into Central Asia.
Beyond the three Government-to-Government projects, our bilateral cooperation continues to deepen and expand. Premier Li and I witnessed the conclusion of several MOUs and agreements covering a range of areas. We witnessed the upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA), which will bring significant and tangible benefits to our businesses and our peoples. We are also working closely on the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative. On this BRI, our cooperation spans infrastructure, finance, third-party markets, and professional services. We are also exploring the possibility of cooperating in a B&R project in a third country.
I am also happy that we have elevated the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City to a state level bilateral cooperation project. The Knowledge City will support the development of China’s Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
As ASEAN Chair and as country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations, Singapore has worked closely with China and ASEAN Member States to achieve good outcomes this year. ASEAN and China share a common interest in upholding an open, rules-based multilateral order. We have made good progress on Code of Conduct in the South China Sea negotiations through the Single Draft Negotiating Text. And we have improved mutual trust through the successful recent ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise. We are working closely together with other regional countries to achieve a substantial and early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Singapore and China are like-minded partners in many areas, even though we have different circumstances and constraints. I believe that we can continue to tap on our complementary strengths, deepen cooperation, and make sure that our all-round cooperative partnership continues to progress with the times.
May I now invite you to join me in a toast to the good health and success of Premier Li and his delegation; and to the close and enduring partnership between Singapore and China. Cheers!
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