By Yuling Chen, EDITOR
It has been 3 years since the launch of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity. So how does Singapore think of it?
iChongqing interviewed Chan Chun Sing, the Minister of Trade and Industry of Singapore on Jan. 4, and let’s find out what’s his opinion.
iChongqing: What are Singapore’s views on the progress made by the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative (CCI), the third G-to-G project between China and Singapore? What do you think is the greatest achievement under CCI to date? What are some of the areas both sides need to improve on in order to achieve the goal of “Strategic Connectivity”?
Chan Chun Sing: The China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity (CCI) is Singapore’s third Government-to-Government (G-to-G) project with China. As with our first two G-to-G projects, the objective of the CCI is to complement China’s developmental priorities. After much consideration, we decided that the CCI would focus on the theme of “modern connectivity and modern services” to align with China’s shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-oriented economy. Given China’s aspiration to catalyze the development of Western China, both Governments also agreed that the CCI will be based in Western China with Chongqing as the operating base. The CCI is designated as a key priority demonstration project to pilot innovative measures which can be replicated in other parts of China if successful.
The CCI is a modern demonstrative project that is not geographically-bounded. Instead, the CCI aims to catalyze the economic growth of an entire region by enhancing connectivity within the region, between regions, and with the world. Since its launch, the CCI has made good progress in improving the business environment in Western China by lowering financial and logistics costs. For example, under the Financial Services pillar, cross-border financing deals totaling RMB 28.9 billion (around SGD 5.8 billion) have been completed to date. The first cross-border real estate investment trust (REIT) from Western China was also listed on the Singapore Exchange in March 2018, showing the market that there are good companies in Western China. Aviation connectivity has also grown significantly, with a rising trend in passenger movement supported by 14 weekly flights between Singapore and Chongqing. The CCI has also generated interest in other sectors related to the theme of “modern connectivity and modern services”, including professional services, tourism, healthcare, and education. We have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Cooperation in the Training of Senior Officials between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chongqing Organisation Department. This provides a platform to strengthen people-to-people connectivity and foster greater understanding between our peoples.
iChongqing: What economic opportunities have the CCI-International New Land Sea Transport Corridor (CCI-ILSTC) presented to Singapore and other ASEAN countries? What are Minister’s views on the main challenges that CCI-ILSTC faces and how should we overcome them?
Chan Chun Sing: The CCI – New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC) is a multimodal and multifaceted economic link which aims to facilitate the seamless movement of goods between China, Singapore and the rest of the world. Apart from reducing the amount of time needed to transport goods between Southeast Asia and Western China from three weeks to one, the CCI-ILSTC also bridges the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. With Chongqing and Singapore as the “strategic nodes”, of Western China and Southeast Asia, the CCI-ILSTC aims to contribute to the development of the two regions by integrating sea and rail transport infrastructure to provide a faster line of communication. It will also go beyond conventional trade connectivity to catalyze modern dimensions of connectivity such as finance, data, talent, and technology. Improved connectivity will allow resources and capital in Southeast Asia and Western China to be brought together and deployed more efficiently, promote greater regional integration, and drive the development of both regions.
The CCI’s emphasis is on building networks and I am glad that Chongqing has brought other western provinces such as Guangxi, Guizhou and Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang on board to jointly develop the CCI-ILSTC. The CCI-ILSTC is an open platform that welcomes all who want to play a part in its development. With more stakeholders on board, we will aggregate volume, build economies of scale and lower business costs. These will improve the overall business environment in Western China, making it more attractive for investors.
Singapore companies are enthusiastic and have contributed to the development of the CCI-ILSTC.
While there has been good progress made on the CCI-ILSTC, much work remains to be done. We must continue to enhance and demonstrate the benefits of the CCI-ILSTC to increase utilization and build up cargo volume in order to achieve economies of scale. We have made good progress in building land-sea connectivity and must continue to strengthen the inter-modal connectivity.
Firstly, by enhancing the hardware aspects of the CCI-ILSTC, particularly the last-mile connectivity. Currently, cargo is trucked from the port to the train yard upon arrival, which takes time. It is critical that we extend the rail lines to the port and adopt logistics standardization to make the network truly seamless.
Secondly, by streamlining inspection processes across borders and the different transport modes, and improving transparency in processes and regulations.
Lastly, by exploring ways to exchange trade information electronically, in advance, so that cargo can be cleared and released immediately upon arrival at the port. Coordination among the western provinces is key as we work towards the common vision of enhancing trade flows and achieving greater regional integration.
iChongqing: In August 2018, Singapore participated in the inaugural International Smart China Expo (ISCE) as the “Country-of-Honour”. What are some of Singapore’s takeaways from the ISCE and how can Singapore and Chongqing cooperate in the fields of Big Data and Smart Technology?
Chan Chun Sing: Singapore is honored to be the “Country-of-Honour” for the inaugural International Smart China Expo (SCE) held last year, where more than 40 Singapore companies and over 160 local delegates participated. During the expo, several Memoranda of Understanding were signed between Singapore and Chinese companies to develop joint projects and explore business opportunities in Chongqing and Western China. This shows that there are many complementary strengths that Singapore and Chinese companies can tap on.
The SCE is a new highlight in our ICT collaborations, and there are various areas where we can deepen collaboration.
First, we can strengthen the digital connectivity between Singapore and Chongqing. We need to enhance the policy environment to facilitate closer collaboration between Singapore and Chinese telecommunication partners for the development of the international data channels.
Second, we can collaborate on joint projects that address digitalization needs. Both sides can jointly develop solutions to advance the service industries through the use of Big Data and digital channels.
Lastly, we can deepen collaboration in the information, communications and media sectors. The Innovation Centre for Small Medium ICM Enterprises provides a good platform for Singapore SMEs to participate in ICM projects in Chongqing, and we encourage our companies to actively tap on this platform.