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Singapore firms sign 22 deals with Sichuan companies for more access to western China

[CHENGDU] Singapore firms on Friday inked 22 deals with Sichuan companies for greater access to western China across sectors including technology and innovation, education, lifestyle, logistics and tourism.

These memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed at the 19th Singapore-Sichuan Trade and Investment Committee (SSTIC) meeting in Chengdu, the capital city of southwestern Sichuan province.

Set up in 1996, the committee is one of seven business councils to promote economic exchanges and cooperation between Singapore and a Chinese province or municipality.

"Singapore and Sichuan have enjoyed good economic relations since the establishment of SSTIC 22 years ago," said Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister in Prime Minister's Office, in a speech in Mandarin at the close of the meeting.

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"Singapore hopes to build a 'Singapore-Sichuan Innovation Corridor' with the province to encourage companies from both sides to collaborate on tech and innovation projects aimed at the Chinese and international markets," said Mr Ng, who is also co-chairman of SSTIC.

Nearly half of the agreements signed on Friday are in technology and innovation. They include plans by iTechBlack, a Singapore fintech incubator, to leverage the Singapore Innovation Centre in the Singapore-Sichuan Hi-tech Innovation Park (SSCIP) as a launchpad for their start-ups into Sichuan.

The park is a high-end industrial and residential township in Chengdu, which began construction in 2012.

It is one of several private sector-led, government-supported projects that Singapore has in China. The others include Guangzhou Knowledge City in the south and the Jilin Food Zone in the north-east.

Mr Ng said in his speech that he hopes to have 150 to 200 Singapore and Sichuan enterprises set up shop in the Singapore Innovation Centre in the next two years as part of the Singapore-Sichuan Innovation Corridor Initiative.

Even as Singapore companies seek new markets in China through the south-western province, Chinese companies are also tapping the Republic's links and familiarity with South-east Asia to expand their operations in the region.

"Singapore is a major destination for Sichuan's opening up to the south," said Sichuan governor Yin Li, who is adviser to the SSTIC, at the opening of the committee meeting.

Noting that South Asia and South-east Asia is a vast market of 2.3 billion people, he said: "Singapore is also an important link for Sichuan to tap this southern market."

Sichuan companies have been leveraging Singapore's established capital market to fund their expansion in the region or investment opportunities in countries along the Belt and Road trade routes.

According to Enterprise Singapore, Chengdu-based New Hope Group, a private company with business in agriculture, animal husbandry and food processing, has been raising funds for overseas expansion and acquisitions in Singapore through a mixture of financing options including public bond issues, bank loans and private equity.

Said Mr Ng: "Singapore is an ideal partner for Sichuan companies to expand regionally and offer services in areas related to trade connectivity, financing and professional services."

Singapore's total cumulative actual investments in Sichuan reached S$9.35 billion with 594 projects as at end-December 2017.

Trade between Singapore and Sichuan in 2017 stood at S$1.38 billion, up 21.5 per cent from a year earlier.

Mr Ng arrived in Sichuan on Wednesday for a four-day visit with 55 officials and businessmen.

On Thursday, he visited the SSCIP and a local primary school as well as officiated the opening of veriTAG's unmanned minimart in Chengdu, the first for the Singapore cloud-tagging solutions provider.

He will call on Sichuan party boss Peng Qinghua and Chengdu party chief Fan Ruining later on Friday.

THE STRAITS TIMES

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