SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): Public health and economic rejuvenation will be on the agenda on Tuesday (Dec 8), when the highest-level bilateral meeting between Singapore and China takes place.
At the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng will also discuss cooperation on China's regional development strategies.
"The meeting is an opportunity for both Singapore and China to take stock of the progress made over the past year, and further cooperation for the benefit of our peoples," said Mr Heng in an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua, ahead of the meeting, which will be held virtually due to the pandemic.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Singapore. Both countries have kept up "positive momentum" in their exchanges despite the pandemic, Heng added.
On the public health front, he said both countries will discuss ways to improve healthcare collaboration. These include working together on pandemic preparedness and response, as well as on the development, production and distribution of vaccines.
Both countries will also consider how to use their membership in the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator Facilitation Council and the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (Covax) to ensure that the world has equitable access to vaccines. These are platforms for international cooperation on vaccine-related matters.
On the economic front, one priority is enhancing connectivity between China and Singapore, Heng said.
"We hope to safely restore connectivity, particularly air connectivity and people-to-people exchanges, as this will catalyse our economic recoveries."
He also spoke on collaboration with China on development in areas such as the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta along the eastern coast, and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area in the south.
Heng noted that people-to-people links between both countries have grown over the decades, and expanded across all fronts.
"I believe our ability to maintain close communication and cooperation at the political, economic and people-to-people levels has led us to the strong relationship we share today," he said.
In the interview, the Deputy Prime Minister was also asked how both countries can explore new areas of cooperation.
In response, Heng brought up China's new "dual circulation" strategy, which envisions a new economic development strategy relying less on global integration and more on expanding domestic commerce.
Singapore, as a regional hub for trade, finance and logistics, can be a key partner in China's "external circulation", he said.
He also reiterated his earlier point on enhancing connectivity, including financial connectivity. As China's share of the global gross domestic product grows, there will be greater use of the renminbi for portfolio and direct investments into China, Heng said.
"Today, Singapore is among the top three offshore RMB (renminbi) centres in the world. We should build on this, to deepen capital market linkages and financial flows."
Both countries can also work together to promote policy innovation to spur cooperation in the digital economy, Mr Heng added.
On this front, the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative, which is aimed at connecting business ecosystems between Singapore and China's tech capital, can serve as a pathfinder for digital collaborations.
And as both countries place a greater emphasis on resource conservation, environmental protection and low carbon development, there are many opportunities for mutual learning, Heng said.
"We are always on the lookout for new areas of cooperation that are mutually beneficial, so that bilateral cooperation is dynamic and always progressing." - The Straits Times/Asia News Network