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Financial, infrastructure links get boost with over 10 MOUs inked at first Chongqing-Singapore financial summit

INTEREST is picking up on opportunities for collaboration between South-east Asia and western China as more than 500 business leaders and government officials descended on Chongqing to attend the inaugural China (Chongqing)-Singapore Connectivity Initiative Financial Summit on Friday.

Ten memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were inked during the summit, which aims to enhance regional connectivity under China's Belt and Road Initiative, and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative Southern Transport Corridor (STC), a rail-sea transport link between China and South-east Asia.

Among the agreements signed, the Singapore FinTech Association will form an alliance with the Chongqing authorities to develop Chongqing's fintech industry, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a Friday press statement.

In addition, OCBC Bank, Xiaomi Inc and Hanhua Financial Holding Co will explore fintech collaboration in the areas of retail and institutional financial services in China. This collaboration will enable more than 300 million Xiaomi retail customers and business partners to have access to innovative financial services, said the MAS, which co-organises the summit.

Lu International - part of the Ping An Group - and other Singapore institutional investors will also collaborate with the Chongqing Financial Assets Exchange to help microfinance companies issue debt overseas.

Other MOUs signed during the summit in the western Chinese city include enhancing support for the development of the Southern Transport Corridor and inclusive finance in China's western region.

The summit is the signature event under the financial services pillar of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity (CCI).

MAS's managing director Ravi Menon said the CCI has made "good progress", and that Chinese firms continue to benefit from raising capital in Singapore's financial centre.

Some 51 CCI-qualifying cross-border financing deals worth US$4.2 billion have been completed as at August this year, he said.

Looking ahead, Mr Menon noted that Asean and China's western region can jointly develop more innovative SME (small and medium enterprise) financing solutions. Singapore is also able to support the financing needs of Chinese companies expanding into South-east Asia and beyond, he said.

According to Mr Menon, bond issuance by Chinese issuers in Singapore almost doubled in 2017 to S$18 billion, with more than a quarter of this amount issued by first-time Chinese issuers in Singapore.

On fintech, Mr Menon said Chongqing and Singapore could strengthen fintech collaboration and apply fintech solutions "to make the STC hassle free, safe and cost efficient for all stakeholders".

Using technology, the STC could potentially "shorten to one week" the time it takes to transport goods between China and Asean, compared with two to three weeks using other routes, Mr Menon noted, adding that a successful STC could provide a "further boost" to trade and investment activities between the two regions.

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