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Singapore and Zhejiang to cooperate on Belt and Road opportunities

SINGAPORE will work with China's eastern Zhejiang province, home of e-commerce giant Alibaba, to explore opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative and deepen cooperation in areas like innovation and urban solutions.

These include encouraging more Chinese e-commerce, logistics and technology firms to tap Singapore companies' network and experiences in South-east Asia to jointly expand in the region, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann on Thursday.

She also urged Zhejiang companies to use Singapore as a base to set up their regional headquarters and raise funds for projects in the Belt and Road countries.

Launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is a strategic and economic project to link China with Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe with roads, railways, ports and industrial parks.

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Ms Sim, who co-chairs the Singapore-Zhejiang Economic and Trade Council (SZETC), was speaking at the opening of the council's annual meeting held at Zhoushan, a new pilot free trade zone set up last year.

"The free trade zone is not just strategically important to the province, it also enhances Zhoushan's role in the Belt and Road Initiative," said Ms Sim, who is also Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.

"As a global maritime, logistics and energy hub, Singapore and our companies are well-placed to partner Chinese firms to contribute to the development of the free trade zone," she said in a press statement released by Enterprise Singapore.

On Thursday morning, Ms Sim met Zhejiang vice governor Zhu Congjiu, co-chair of the SZETC.

He said steady progress have been made on the Zhoushan FTZ in the past year and welcome more collaborations with Singapore on developing the area.

"We have sent many of our officials to Singapore to learn from your experience in building a free port," he said.

On Thursday, Ms Sim also witnessed the signing of 14 pacts between Singapore and Zhejiang companies in sectors such as urban solutions, e-commerce, wholesale trade and logistics.

Among them is a joint venture between Anacle, a Singapore software company, and Enjoytown, a Zhejiang real estate developer, to co-develop and provide smart city and township management solutions.

"Trade and economic ties between Singapore and Zhejiang have been growing steadily. The 14 project collaborations signed today are testament to Singapore's continued strong interest in the province," said Ms Sim.

Zhejiang is one of China's richest provinces with a gross domestic product of $1.08 trillion, about three times the size of Singapore's economy.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the business council since it was set up in 2003. According to Enterprise Singapore, trade between Singapore and Zhejiang almost doubled in the past decade. In 2007, bilateral trade was $2.7 billion, and by last year, it reached $5.2 billion, which was a 24-per cent jump from the previous year.

Singapore firms have also invested a total of $7.2 billion with 1,201 projects in the province.

During Ms Sim's visit, she met Zhejiang governor Yuan Jiajun and Zhoushan party chief Yu Donglai on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr Yuan told Ms Sim that the Zhejiang government is committed to improve the business environment in the province to further open up its markets to foreign investors.

The development of the Ningbo-Zhoushan sea port, the Yiwu railway port, the consolidation of local airports as well as the virtual connectivity spearheaded by Alibaba will result in more opportunities for mutual collaborations, he added.

More than 80 Singapore government and business representatives from financial services, logistics, oil and gas, professional services, real estate and wholesale trade are on a business mission to China in conjunction with the SZETC meeting.

Ms Sim will end her five-day trip on Friday after a visit to the Singapore-Hangzhou Science and Technology Park.

THE STRAITS TIMES