Domestic News

China and Singapore upgrade FTA


CHINA and Singapore agreed Monday to upgrade their free trade agreement (FTA) and make more joint efforts to facilitate connectivity.

The consensus, along with agreements on boosting bilateral cooperation in innovation and other areas, was reached in talks in Singapore between visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Noting that China and Singapore have completed their FTA upgrading negotiations, Li said he hopes the two sides will seize the opportunity to lift two-way trade and investment to higher levels.

The upgrade of the FTA will bring real benefits to the people and companies of the two countries and send a strong signal of further expanding trade and investment, Lee said.

The two sides also pledged to advance the building of the New Land-Sea Corridor, which consists of a number of cargo routes by land and sea connecting central and southwest China to Southeast Asia, so as to further improve connectivity between the two countries and beyond.

Experts say the corridor will help China to further open up to the world while opening a shortcut for Southeast Asian countries to enter the Chinese market.

After their talks, the two leaders witnessed the signing of a series of cooperation documents on FTA upgrading, connectivity, finance, science and technology, environment, culture and customs.

RCEP negotiations

China expects to finalize negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2019, Premier Li said yesterday while delivering a speech at the 44th Singapore Lecture.

“We are going to announce the completion of the substantial negotiations on RCEP and the entry into the final stage at this meeting, and China hopes to conclude the RCEP negotiations next year,” Li said, referring to the second RCEP leaders’ meeting scheduled for today.

China, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other parties have spent six years negotiating an economic integration agreement, which covers about half of the world’s population, he said.

In the context of rising protectionism and setbacks for free trade, advancing the WTO rules-based RCEP would not only benefit people in the region, but also send the world a strong signal of upholding and promoting free trade, Li said.

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN members and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has free trade agreements — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

South China Sea

China hopes its talks with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will bear fruit in three years, Premier Li said yesterday.

China hopes to complete talks on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea within three years, clinching a final deal that will keep enduring peace in the region, Li said in a speech at the 44th Singapore Lecture.

The COC talks, launched by China and ASEAN countries, are a mechanism of equal participants, independent of external interference, he added.

Reaching agreement on the COC will not only be beneficial to China and ASEAN countries but also conducive to free trade, Li said.

During the first official visit to Singapore by a Chinese premier in 11 years, Li will also attend the 21st leaders’ meeting between China and ASEAN and the 21st ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea leaders’ meeting, respectively known as 10+1 and 10+3, as well as the 13th East Asia Summit.