Singapore, China agree to 30-day visa-free travel pact to boost ties

DPM Lawrence Wong (fourth from left) and Chinese Vice-Premier Ding Xuexiang (fifth from right) during their 19th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting in Tianjin, China on Dec 7. - ST

TIANJIN: Singapore and China will strive to enable more people-to-people exchanges in the post-pandemic era, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong at the top bilateral forum between the two countries on Thursday (Dec 7).

In support of this, there will be a 30-day mutual visa-free arrangement between the two countries, he added at the 19th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC).

This means that citizens from both countries can visit the other for up to 30 days without the need for a visa.

Currently, China passport-holders have to apply for a visa to enter Singapore, while Singaporeans can go to China for up to 15 days visa-free.

The new arrangement will “enable more people to people exchanges, thereby fortifying the bedrock of our bilateral relations”, said Wong.

At the moment, flights between Singapore and China are at 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

He noted that this is the first JCBC since both sides upgraded bilateral relations earlier in 2023.

“This upgrade is not just a change in name. It reflects our shared aspirations to set more ambitious goals in our cooperation between our two countries.

“And we have projects that truly reflect the key elements of our partnership, which is one that is comprehensive and of all around high quality, as well as future oriented.”

He added that the JCBC meeting is also significant as it marks the 15th anniversary of the Tianjin Eco-City project.

“The Eco-City is a visionary project that seeks to develop a model of city development that is environmentally sustainable, and we set about doing this even before environmental issues like climate change became a key global agenda,” said Wong.

He said he had been personally involved in the development of the Tianjin Eco-City for a number of years when Minister for National Development.

“It’s very heartening to come back here and see how far the development has progressed these last 15 years,” he said.

In April, Singapore and China upgraded bilateral relations to an all-round, high-quality, future-oriented partnership, ushering in a new phase in diplomatic ties.

Chinese Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang said in his opening remarks at the JCBC meeting that the day’s discussions will revolve around the three key phrases: all-round, high-quality and future-oriented.

“This year has been particularly significant in the development of Sino-Singapore ties...I believe that through our efforts, this meeting will bear fruitful results,” he said.

Wong is on a four-day official visit to China. He arrived in Beijing on Dec 5. The JCBC is the highest-level bilateral platform for both countries that reviews substantive collaboration and charts the direction for cooperation.

Wong, who is co-chairing JCBC with Ding for the first time, had said in an editorial in The Straits Times on Dec 6 that Singapore and China can do more to foster closer ties.

“Be it regular exchanges between our officials and students, or cross-border tourism, these have all contributed to the deep sense of mutual understanding and trust between our peoples,” he said. - The Straits Times/ANN

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