By Gao Chuan, Ding Qilin
SINGAPORE, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- A strong and successful China will benefit the world and the Asian region, Singapore wishes to participate in China's development, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Xinhua in a recent exclusive interview.
Before the Prime Minister kicks off his 8-day working visit to China on Sept. 6, he had a written interview with Xinhua to share his views on Singapore-China bilateral relations.
Lee said Singapore enjoys excellent relations with China. Just in the last three years, the two countries signed the Singapore- China Free Trade Agreement, launched the Tianjin Eco-city project and celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Suzhou Industrial Park project. Both countries are also collaborating in new areas, like education, culture and tourism. For example, the new Singapore University of Technology and Design, Zhejiang University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are embarking on a three-way collaboration; and Singaporeans are looking forward to the 10-year loan of a pair of giant pandas.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties, Singapore will be unveiling a Deng Xiaoping commemorative marker, and doing the groundbreaking for the China Cultural Center.
"During the past few years, thousands of Chinese officials have visited Singapore on study trips, to learn about our development experience and adapt appropriate policies to China's national conditions. Many Singapore officials travel to China to update ourselves of the rapid advancements all over the country," Lee said.
Leaders of both countries enjoy good rapport and there is a steady exchange of high-level visits. President Hu Jintao had a successful State Visit to Singapore in 2009, and President S R Nathan has just visited Beijing and Shanghai. Lee said Singapore welcomes more Chinese leaders to visit his country.
"I am confident that we will build on this strong foundation and continue strengthening our bilateral ties," he said.
Lee also hailed China for its achievements over the past four decades, saying China has developed at a breathtaking pace, lifting millions out of poverty and improving the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens.
"We believe a strong and successful China will benefit the world and the Asian region. Singapore wishes to participate in China's development," Lee said.
"Our two countries and peoples have formed strong and enduring bonds of friendship. We enjoy close cooperation in many fields. We should deepen our partnership in existing areas, continue to search for new areas for cooperation, and encourage our youth to build lasting friendships with one another," he added.
For his upcoming trip, the Prime Minister will be visiting the municipalities of Chongqing and Shanghai and the cities of Changsha (Hunan province), Wuhan (Hubei province) and Suzhou ( Jiangsu province).
There are three main objectives for his visit, Lee said. First, to observe first-hand the developments in cities in Central China, to better understand the role these cities play in China's strategy to direct development from the coastal to inland regions. Second, to get an update on the progress of the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). Finally, to visit the Shanghai Expo which has received very good reviews from both international and Chinese visitors.
On bilateral economic relations, Lee said, the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) came into force on Jan. 1, 2009. It is the first comprehensive bilateral FTA that China concluded with an Asian country. Under the agreement, both China and Singapore have committed to liberalize various economic sectors beyond their WTO commitments, such as in healthcare and education services. The CSFTA thus creates new opportunities for businesses. It also signals the commitment of both Singapore and China to free trade.
"We should regularly review the CSFTA to meet the evolving needs of our business communities. Greater market access and trade liberalization will increase trade and investment flows between our two countries. This is a win-win outcome that both countries can work towards." Lee noted.
Lee also congratulates Chinese mainland on its successful signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with Taiwan. He said Singapore believes that the ECFA will help to promote regional economic integration and peaceful development of cross-strait relations.
Speaking on the proposed Singapore-Taiwan economic agreement, he said Singapore and Taiwan are currently assessing the feasibility of an economic cooperation agreement. "Singapore is a strong supporter of free trade. Our trade is three times our GDP. We therefore actively pursue opportunities to strengthen economic and trade relations with all our trading partners," he said.
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