The two countries signed a raft of pacts – from customs twinning to a Smart City project in Shenzhen to a youth internship exchange programme – at their 15th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting yesterday.
The substantial number of deals – up from seven signed at last year’s talks – could be seen as a sign of a new chapter in the relationship between the two countries as Singapore transitions to a new political generation.
Co-chairs of the council, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese vice-premier Han Zheng acknowledged the milestone in their opening remarks at the bilateral meeting and subsequent council meeting.
Referring to the 30th anniversary of relations between Singapore and China next year, Han said there were “a lot of expectations” about this year’s meeting as the two countries face common challenges amid a wave of protectionism and anti-
globalisation sweeping the world.
Analysts say that with China facing a prolonged trade war with the United States and Singapore’s economy flatlining, there is greater impetus for both countries to cooperate economically.
Heng, who was co-chairing the council for the first time, said both countries attached great importance to the annual summit, which was reflected by “the high-level representation and substantial achievements” of the projects.
Referring to the significant number of fourth-generation leaders from Singapore who were attending the meeting, he said their presence would hopefully “pave the way for the next generation of leaders to strengthen our bilateral relationship”.
Among the deals signed was one between Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Shenzhen government on a Smart City initiative that will connect business ecosystems and promote links between people and businesses, between the island-state and the Chinese tech capital.
MCI said the projects under this initiative would be in areas such as “digital connectivity, talent exchange and development, and innovation and entrepreneurship”.Singapore aims to be the world’s first Smart Nation.
Another agreement is for internship exchanges for students and recent graduates of polytechnics and universities.
Launching next year, it will allow up to 500 Singaporean full-time students and graduates each year to work at a China-based company of their choice for up to six months.
Chinese students will also have similar opportunities.
This is the first bilateral internship exchange scheme that Singapore has with another country, and Singapore is the first Asian country to have such an arrangement with China. — The Straits Times/ANN
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