Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is on a two-day trip to Fujian, China from Mar. 30 to Mar. 31, where he will be meeting his Chinese counterpart, State Councillor and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi.
S'pore welcomes China's proposal to mutually recognise Covid-19 health certificates
His visit "reaffirms the long-standing and substantive relations between Singapore and China, as both countries cooperate to strengthen economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement on Mar. 30.
In an interview with Xinhua, Vivian reaffirmed mutual ties, and welcomed China's "recent proposal on mutual recognition of health certificates".
He also touched on public health cooperation between the two countries, one of the main agenda items of the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), co-chaired by DPM Heng Swee Keat and Vice Premier Han Zheng in Dec. 2020.
"This is a timely initiative as our two countries have begun vaccination programmes," Vivian noted, referring to the Covid-19 "vaccine passport" rolled out by China earlier in March.
Health certificates needed for safe travel
He further added that the health certificates would be an "important enabler" for the safe resumption of cross-border travel while protecting public health, and stressed on the importance of early cooperation between countries to "ensure that the systems are interoperable".
Vivian also mentioned that Singapore and China have been "in close touch" to provide mutual assistance to each other since the Covid-19 outbreak.
"A friend in need is a friend indeed," the minister said, reiterating DPM Heng's words during an interview with Xinhua last year.
S'pore has contributed to China's poverty alleviation efforts
Vivian also congratulated China in making "enormous progress in its poverty alleviation efforts by lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty", calling it an achievement "that is unprecedented in human history".
"We are happy that our trade, investment, and mutual support for development over the decades have also contributed to China's poverty alleviation efforts," the foreign minister said.
He mentioned that the Singaporean community in China have raised funds to construct a dormitory for Anzi Primary School located in Pengshui County, Chongqing, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Singapore-China relations in 2020.
S'pore can play a key role in China's external economic growth
He further welcomed China's interest to deepen its economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, as it continues to open up its trade and economy in tandem with the expansion of its domestic market.
"Singapore companies can continue to tap on the large and growing markets in China, in areas where Singapore's expertise best serve China's domestic economy," the foreign minister said, noting that Singapore has been China's largest foreign investor in the past seven years.
Singapore and the rest of ASEAN recently signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with China and four other countries, with Vivian hailing trade deals as important tools for deepening regional integration and cooperation.
"When RCEP comes into force, it will send a strong signal that our region remains committed to free and open trade. At the same time, the door remains open for other like-minded partners to join us," Vivian said.
As a key financial hub in the region, Singapore is well-positioned to serve as a gateway for Chinese investors to access Asean markets and opportunities, as well as a key node to channel investments into China from the rest of the world.
Around one-quarter of all Chinese outward investments to countries under China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) flows through Singapore, pointing to Singapore's relevance in the BRI as a financial hub for the region, Vivian added.
"We are constantly exploring new areas of cooperation that is in line with our common interests and which are mutually beneficial," said Vivian.
Top image via Ministry of Foreign Affairs