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China, Singapore working on free trade deal
By Chen Qide (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-01 08:50

Singapore is looking forward to working with China on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) upon the completion of FTA negotiations on goods between the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, a senior Singaporean official said in Shanghai on February 28.

"The bilateral FTA will not only institutionalize our access to the Chinese market, but also give our businessmen a leg up in their dealings in China," said Raymond Lim, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry at the two-day Fourth Singapore International Foundation (SIF) Overseas Conference which closed on February 29.

A senior official from the Ministry of Commerce said a FTA with a single ASEAN member could possibly be set up when negotiations for the China-ASEAN FTA are concluded as scheduled on June 30.

Some more-developed ASEAN countries, including Singapore, are requesting setting up pacts with China as early as possible.

More than 400 participants from Singapore and China participated in the "New Asia and Emerging China: Opportunities and Strategies" conference.

Lim told them the FTA with China will complement Singapore's access to other major markets in the US, Japan, Australia and, in the near future, India.

For their part, Chinese businessmen will be able to use Singapore as a base to venture into Southeast Asia, he added.

"Singapore has something to offer when Chinese companies are encouraged to venture into the international market," the minister said.

Lim said Singaporean companies are currently looking into ways to co-operate with their Chinese counterparts to help them go global.

The Singapore Stock Exchange has to date listed 33 Chinese companies and is optimistic that the figure will be up to 50 this year.

"But that is not enough," Lim said.

He urged Singaporean companies to continue expanding co-operation with their Chinese counterparts in new areas like marketing, brand management, intellectual property rights and legal certification.

As of 2003, China has attracted a combined investment of US$24.3 billion from Singapore, said Tan Wing Ming, chairman of the Fourth SIF Overseas Conference Organizing Committee.

"Asian countries should maintain close ties with China in the process of its further opening to the outside world," he said

The Singaporean Government has reviewed its development strategy and formulated a blueprint to revitalize its economy in a bid to bring Singapore into the next phase of growth, Lim said.

"China has a major place in our new strategy," he said. "Co-operation and access to the Chinese market are important."

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