China and Singapore wrap up talks to upgrade free-trade agreement
- Negotiations started three years ago and upgraded deal is expected to be signed at a later date
- It includes broader economic cooperation on legal and financial services, e-commerce and the environment
China and Singapore have concluded talks to upgrade their free-trade deal, bringing to an end three years of negotiations.
The agreement was reached during a meeting between Chinese Vice-Commerce Minister Fu Ziying and Singaporean Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on the sidelines of the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement late on Monday.
Talks to upgrade the free-trade agreement, which took effect in January 2009, started after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Singapore in November 2015.
The statement said the two countries would sign the upgraded trade protocol at a later date. The agreement includes broader economic cooperation between the two Asian economies on legal and financial services, as well as e-commerce and the environment.
The announcement came hours after Xi said the country would further open its economy and cut import tariffs amid global economic uncertainties, during a speech to open the expo.
Xi also said China would seek to boost domestic consumption, strengthen enforcement of intellectual property protection and push forward trade talks with Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Beijing has stepped up efforts to build a global trade network with greater use of free-trade deals to diversify its markets and counter protectionism. At present, China has 17 free-trade agreements with 25 countries and regions and it is in talks for at least 12 new or upgraded deals.
China is Singapore’s largest trading partner, while Singapore is among the biggest foreign direct investors in China.
Under the current free-trade pact, 95 per cent of Singapore’s exports to China are already duty-free, and there are no tariffs on any Chinese exports to Singapore.
Channel News Asia reported that the upgraded free-trade agreement was expected to give businesses from Singapore more investment protection and improved market access in China.
After a seventh round of talks on the upgraded free-trade deal with Singapore in July, Beijing said it would send a strong message that the two sides took a firm stance on trade liberalisation.