Singapore, China conclude substantive talks on FTA and expand cooperation in 6 areas

Singapore Prime Minister

1st April 2023 – (Singapore) According to CNA, Singapore and China have completed negotiations on an upgraded free trade agreement, aimed at boosting market access for businesses in both countries. This move comes a day after the countries announced the upgrading of bilateral ties. The two nations also signed six agreements on Saturday, in areas ranging from food safety to biodiversity conservation.

The Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) were signed between Singapore government officials in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s delegation and their Chinese counterparts, with Mr Lee and China’s new premier Li Qiang witnessing the signings at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Both sides also welcomed the conclusion of substantive talks to upgrade the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA), which will improve market access for businesses from both countries to trade and invest in each other’s markets, according to a joint statement issued by both countries.

On Friday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met China’s President Xi Jinping, and both leaders agreed to elevate bilateral relations to an “All-Round High-Quality Future-Oriented Partnership”. The statement issued by both countries reaffirmed Singapore’s support for China’s development and welcomed its commitment to reform and opening up. “China spoke highly of Singapore’s longstanding participation in China’s modernisation journey, which has laid a strong foundation for bilateral cooperation, and expressed support for Singapore’s continued growth and prosperity,” the statement said.

Singapore and China also expressed their interest in new areas of cooperation and “making full use of inter-governmental mechanisms” such as the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the top bilateral platform where both countries review their collaborations and map out new avenues for cooperation. The agreement was China’s first comprehensive bilateral FTA that it concluded with an Asian country, and was signed in 2009. Since then, the two countries signed the CSFTA Upgrade Protocol in 2018.

The six agreements signed on Saturday included one on food security, with China and Singapore agreeing to exchange information on food safety regulations and to boost cooperation in food trade. The two countries also inked MOUs on the management of international commercial disputes for the Belt and Road Initiative, and water and environmental research. Agreements were also signed to foster cultural and artistic exchanges and to work together on biodiversity conservation.

The Chinese and Singaporean governments are working through the legal aspects of documentation before the final agreements are signed. The agreement will undergo ratification before coming into force. Both sides are looking to sign the protocol for the subsequent negotiations as soon as possible this year, the statement added.

Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor since 2013, while China has been Singapore’s top investment destination since 2007. Negotiations were launched in 2020 to upgrade the two countries’ free trade agreement, which includes more liberal and transparent rules to level the playing field for investors and service suppliers between both countries. The agreement aims to continue fostering growth and prosperity for both nations.