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Openness, connectivity key to realising full potential of China's Belt and Road Initiative: DPM Teo

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Openness in the right of transit passage for ships and aircraft, or in exploring new forms of cooperation between countries, is a key aspect of connectivity that can help China's Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative realise its full potential, said Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday.

OPENNESS in the right of transit passage for ships and aircraft, or in exploring new forms of cooperation between countries, is a key aspect of connectivity that can help China's Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative realise its full potential, said Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday.

The B&R initiative, promoted by China, is a string of projects aimed at facilitating trade and investment flows between China and other countries by investing in infrastructure. It calls to mind ancient overland and maritime trade routes that linked China with the rest of the world.

"Working together to keep the sea lanes open and safe for shipping from all countries, and for all countries, is a key pre-requisite for the modern Maritime Silk Road," Mr Teo said in his speech at the opening ceremony of the FutureChina Global Forum at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore. He is also the Singapore co-chair of this year's 13th Joint Council for Bilateral Collaboration between China and Singapore.

On Thursday, he said that Chinese companies have been expanding globally and thus contributed to world economic growth. China has thus found a larger role to play globally, and has been advocating key issues such as free trade, open markets and climate change.

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He said: "China's outward-facing new development trajectory depends on such a rules-based multilateral order."

There are three priority areas for Singapore and China to work on with regard to B&R initiative, so that Singapore's export-reliant economy can benefit from it, said Mr Teo. These three areas were discussed between Mr Teo and his Chinese co-chair Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

First, Singapore stresses the openness of physical and digital connectivity. Emphasising that Singapore's vital interest is in the "smooth and unhindered flow of trade and traffic" through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, Mr Teo said that the city-state will continue to uphold right of passage for ships and aircraft of all countries.

Mr Teo also highlighted the need to enhance financial cooperation. Many financial institutions call Singapore as their regional home, and they can help facilitate the reach of the B&R initiative by investing in projects. He also urged Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to work with other multilateral financing institutions in Singapore to sustain such projects.

Thirdly, Mr Teo said that there can be stronger people-to-people connectivity between Singapore and China. The two countries' experiences on bilateral projects can benefit third countries in human capital development, he said. Think-tanks from both countries can conduct joint research and seminars on the B&R initiative.

"Such mutual learning is in line with the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit," he added.

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