Thursday, 15 October 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Singapore to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties

Chinese President making trip next month as part of exchange of state visits this year
By Lee Xin En, The Straits Times, 14 Oct 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Singapore next month, capping a year-long series of celebrations to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties as well as meetings to deepen bilateral cooperation.

Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said they looked forward to Mr Xi's state visit.

In their separate meetings yesterday with visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, they noted the close bilateral ties and discussed areas of cooperation.

Mr Xi, who last visited Singapore in 2010 as China's vice-president, will be making the trip as part of an exchange of state visits this year, with Dr Tan visiting Beijing and Tianjin from June to early July.

Earlier at the annual meeting of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) yesterday, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean also met Mr Zhang. "We look forward to welcoming President Xi Jinping for his state visit to Singapore in November to commemorate this milestone," said Mr Teo, referring to the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties.

The JCBC is the highest-level bilateral mechanism to deepen political and economic ties. High on the agenda yesterday was a proposed third government-to-government project in China's western region and the upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA).

Despite expectations that both sides would announce a city of choice as well as the launch of formal talks of the CSFTA upgrade, no such progress was revealed in a joint statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of National Development.

The statement said both sides agreed to work towards a CSFTA upgrade that is "substantive, mutually beneficial, and with a level of ambition befitting our special relationship".

The statement added that the third project should focus on one core city in China's western region and on four sectors of collaboration: financial, aviation, logistics, and information and communications technology.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said existing cross-border yuan initiatives in two flagship Sino-Singapore projects - Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city (TEC) - will now be expanded to the cities of Suzhou and Tianjin, allowing banks in Singapore to lend yuan to Suzhou and Tianjin companies, among others.

"The initiatives announced today are a testament to the excellent relations between MAS and its counterpart in China," said MAS managing director Ravi Menon.

Four new agreements were inked yesterday, including the development of a training facility with a "Harvard Business School concept" in the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City.

Jointly launched by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the Centre of Excellence for Software Transfer (Crest) aims to educate Chinese officials and businessmen about Singapore's public policy and economic development, as well as help Singaporeans learn more about China.

NTU vice-president (research) Lam Khin Yong said he envisioned Crest as a training facility where students attend classes and stay in on-site accommodation to deepen their interaction, like at Harvard.

Deals on the TEC were also inked, such as a platform for firms to test "green" building technology in temperate climates.

Mr Zhang is set to meet Deputy PM Tharman Shanmugaratnam today before ending his trip.

Singapore, China broaden cross-border yuan initiatives after high-level talks
By Kor Kian Beng, China Bureau Chief In Beijing, The Straits Times, 14 Oct 2015

Singapore banks will be allowed to lend yuan to companies in Suzhou and Tianjin, while firms in the two Chinese cities can issue yuan bonds in the Republic, as part of new cross-border initiatives for the Chinese currency.

The moves, announced by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) after a high-level bilateral meeting in Singapore yesterday, are an expansion of existing initiatives implemented since July last year in the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) and the Tianjin Eco-city (TEC).

The MAS said in a statement that Singapore and China are also seeking to boost financial connectivity to support projects under the "One Belt One Road" initiatives - China's schemes aimed at revival of two ancient Silk Road routes - to facilitate access by Chinese companies to Asean markets through Singapore.

Other new initiatives include allowing Suzhou and Tianjin companies to repatriate 100 per cent of proceeds raised from bonds issued in Singapore. Currently, companies in SIP and TEC can repatriate up to 50 per cent of such proceeds. MAS said "the greater flexibility will provide a stronger incentive for corporates in Suzhou and Tianjin to raise RMB funds in Singapore". The yuan is also known as the renminbi (RMB).

Also, SIP firms will be allowed to borrow from Singapore-based companies - a move aimed at facilitating the Chinese firms' overseas expansions through Singapore and providing them with a stronger incentive to set up finance and treasury centres here, said the MAS.

The new initiatives were agreed at the annual meeting of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation. It was co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

The existing initiatives - confined to the two Sino-Singapore government-led projects to boost their development - allow banks in Singapore to lend yuan to companies in the SIP and TEC. They also allow corporates in the two projects to issue yuan bonds in Singapore, while individuals in SIP and TEC can make yuan remittances to settle current account transactions and direct investment in Singapore- based firms.

Singapore banks and companies have welcomed the new initiatives.

Mr Benjamin Quek, head of China business office at OCBC Bank, said the new initiatives will be a boon as "we are able to support many more businesses that previously were unable to access offshore funding".

Mr Li Xiaomin, 40, a Singapore permanent resident and owner of WinTech Nano-Technology that registered in the SIP in 2012, said he would study the new yuan initiatives carefully amid ongoing talks with potential joint partners.

"Companies like ours that are new to China will always welcome greater flexibility through financing options," he told The Straits Times.

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