China and Singapore discussed regional and international developments and ways to deepen cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, and the digital economy, Singapore's Foreign Ministry said.
In a statement released on Monday, the ministry said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on the first day of his two-day working visit to the country.
Wang and Heng underlined the progress made in deepening cooperation between the two countries, even amidst the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the statement added.
The two countries also looked forward to the upcoming 17th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) this year, which will be co-chaired by Heng and Chinese Vice Premier of the State Council Han Zheng.
“The JCBC will facilitate discussions on cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, finance, the digital economy, public health, and sustainable development, and chart the way forward for new areas of cooperation,” the statement said.
In a Facebook post, Heng highlighted the importance of the JCBC as countries navigate a more uncertain and complex future.
Meanwhile, Balakrishnan and Wang also reaffirmed the strong ties between Singapore and China, according to the ministry.
“Minister Balakrishnan and State Councilor Wang looked forward to the early entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which has been ratified by both Singapore and China,” it said.
They also exchanged views on regional and international developments, including ways to deepen cooperation between ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China, in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue relations this year, the statement added.
China remains Singapore's biggest trading partner
According to data from Enterprise Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, though Singapore's external trade, including with China, declined in 2020 due to the pandemic, Beijing remains its biggest trading partner.
Singapore's import and export in 2020 stood at 969.1 billion Singapore dollars ($722.3 billion), down 5.2% from 2019 year-on-year.
Singapore's both imports and exports to China in 2020 were worth 136.2 billion Singapore dollars ($101.5 billion), down 0.8% year-on-year.
The Singapore-China bilateral trade has also made a steady contribution to Singapore's economic growth.
Singapore was the third stop on Wang's tour in Southeast Asia, after Vietnam and Cambodia. He will visit South Korea after leaving Singapore.
Although Wang’s visit to Southeast Asia seeks to discuss bilateral relations, it is believed to be aimed at responding to a statement by US Vice President Kamala Harris during her similar tour a few weeks ago.
During her speech in Singapore, Harris said the Indo-Pacific is a top priority for US foreign policy at this time.
She alluded to “China's continued intimidation and unlawful claims” to large parts of the disputed South China Sea.
Harris said those unlawful claims have been rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision, and Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.
Meanwhile, in her visit to Vietnam, Harris offered more visits by US warships during her talks with President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The Indo-Pacific region refers to the countries located geographically in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean regions, which is home to 60% of the world's population with a total GDP of nearly $52 trillion.
* Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo with Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in JakartaAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.