PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 11th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) CEO Round-table

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 16 September 2014

Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 11th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) CEO Round-table on 16 September 2014.


Your Excellency, Mr Chen Wu, Chairman of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

Mr Jiang Zeng Wei, Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)

Mr Teo Siong Seng, Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

First, let me express my sincere thanks to the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), to the PRC Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), as well as to the Guangxi Government for hosting the China-ASEAN Business Investment Summit (CABIS) and organising the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO). This year is the 11th Investment Summit and the 11th Expo, and the start of the “Diamond Decade” of China-ASEAN cooperation. CABIS has been a useful platform for government-to-business exchanges between China and ASEAN and I look forward to the dialogue to explore how Singapore can help companies to tap on emerging opportunities in ASEAN.

As one looks around the business scene, you can see that China has already produced many world leaders in different industries. It’s made itself increasingly more trade and investment friendly, whether through multilateral agreements like the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, or through platforms like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Most recently, China’s proposals of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, as well as for the New Silk Road, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will create even more opportunities for trade and investments. China is also becoming an important investor overseas, and has become the third largest Overseas Direct Investment source country in the world, after the US and Japan.  

Singapore has benefited from China’s growth, and our economic ties have grown stronger. Our bilateral trade has increased 20 times in a quarter century, from US$4.2 billion in 1990 to US$92 billion last year. And Singapore, last year, was China’s 2nd largest trading partner in ASEAN while China became Singapore’s largest trading partner. Singapore was China’s top foreign investor last year while the year before that, Singapore was China’s 5th largest investment destination. And over 5,200 Chinese companies have set up operations in Singapore.

The cornerstone of our economic relations is the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA). To date, Singapore is the only ASEAN country which has a bilateral FTA with China. I hope companies from both countries will take full advantage of this bilateral FTA. And please give us your feedback, give us, the Singapore Government and also the Chinese Government, the feedback on how we can improve this FTA because it is reviewed every year.  

As we continue to build on our good relations, let me give you three reasons why Singapore makes a good springboard for Chinese companies to go global, to explore markets in ASEAN.

First, ASEAN’s growth potential is huge. ASEAN is home to 600 million people with a growing middle class and has a combined GDP that is the 3rd largest in Asia. It is projected to grow five to six percent over the next five years.  

Secondly, within ASEAN, Singapore is a business-friendly hub. We have an extensive network of 20 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and many Investment Guarantee Agreements (IGAs) and Double-Taxation Agreements (DTAs), which reduce the cost of doing business through Singapore. We are also well connected to major business centres in South East Asia and elsewhere in the world. Our companies provide a comprehensive set of services, whether it is financial services, whether it is accounting services, whether it is legal services. In fact, since we have had an RMB clearing bank in Singapore, since ICBC became an RMB clearing bank last year, companies in Singapore are able to transact directly in Renminbi. And this has catalysed the developments of Renminbi products and services in Singapore.

Thirdly, Singapore is an Asian society, speaking English, but with an Asian culture and our people are comfortable operating between ASEAN and China and can bridge the different cultures.

Many Chinese companies have recognised these advantages of Singapore and have chosen Singapore to host their regional hub. For example, Lenovo has made Singapore their hub for Asia Pacific and ASEAN operations and will launch a global analytics hub in the future. Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace has also set up in Singapore, as they aim to bring their Alipay online payment platform to the fast-growing ASEAN e-commerce market. Xiaomi has based their international headquarters in Singapore to manage their expansion in ASEAN. They also plan to build a logistics centre, a walk-in service centre and a development team to gather feedback to improve its MIUI operating system. And my fellow panellists on stage today, like Huawei and China Aviation Oil, they also have been in Singapore for many years.

So I hope I have given you good reasons to consider coming to Singapore, if you are not already here; and if you are already in Singapore, to expand your operations, invest more in Singapore and in the ASEAN growth story.

So I thank you very much and look forward to having an exchange with you now. Thank you.

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Trade , Economy