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China-Singapore FTA upgrade hailed

By WANG KEJU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-09 07:00

Officials and experts said on Friday that the upgraded free-trade agreement between China and Singapore will expand bilateral collaboration in forward-looking areas and provide a boost to global economic recovery.

The agreement, announced on Thursday by the Ministry of Commerce, will improve market access for businesses to trade and invest in each other's markets.

The signing of the enhanced trade pact, which has been benchmarked against international economic and trade rules and is based on a negative list approach, will lay a more solid foundation for China's accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), they added.

Noting that the improved FTA is part of an ongoing effort since the elevation of bilateral ties in late March, the ministry said that both sides will make further commitments on opening-up to scale up liberalization of trade in services and investment in the form of a negative list, and provide more solid institutional safeguards for companies.

Businesses are able to engage in all other services trade and investment activities and enjoy national treatment, except for restricted or forbidden areas identified in the negative list, the ministry said, stressing that collaboration will be bolstered in emerging sectors such as telecommunication services and the digital economy.

It will enhance the transparency of trade and investment policies and ensure greater certainty in terms of market access, as well as shore up market confidence and foster a more enabling business climate on both sides, said an official with the ministry's international economic and trade relations department.

As a mutually beneficial deal, the upgraded FTA will also help China better align with international standards and further expand institutional opening-up, so as to advance its accession to the CPTPP, said Xu Hongcai, deputy director of the China Association of Policy Science's Economic Policy Committee.

Going forward, China and Singapore will expedite their respective domestic legal steps and strive for the implementation of the upgraded protocol at an early date, the ministry added.

China has been Singapore's top trading partner for 10 consecutive years, and bilateral trade rose 22.8 percent year-on-year to $115.13 billion last year, said the General Administration of Customs.

The renewed framework will usher in more opportunities for Singaporean companies as China has a vibrant consumer market and a booming economy that is rapidly moving toward high-quality growth, said Kok Ping Soon, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation, which represents more than 29,000 Singaporean companies globally.

According to a national business survey released by the federation in January, 46 percent of the companies surveyed currently have a presence in China. Meanwhile, among those planning future overseas expansion, 21 percent expressed their interest in the Chinese market.

Singapore and China should work together to cope with the uncertainties in the global economy and fully leverage new opportunities in areas such as sustainable development and digital innovation, Kok said.

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