SINGAPORE – Singapore’s bilateral relations with China remain excellent, anchored by cooperation in various areas such as healthcare, sustainability and tourism, as well as engagement between leaders from both sides, said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sim Ann on Monday in Parliament.
Speaking in Mandarin on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) outreach and engagement plans, Ms Sim highlighted longstanding initiatives such as the 18-year-old Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) and the government-to-government projects in Suzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing as a reflection of the “breadth and depth of Singapore-China cooperation”.
She also noted the good engagement between leaders on both sides, with President Halimah Yacob meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2022. Singapore also welcomed several delegations from China including, notably, Vice-Premier Han Zheng for the 18th JCBC in 2022.
Ms Sim said that in-person meetings, especially with the Chinese adjusting their pandemic management approach, are necessary to build trust.
She also called Singapore’s relationship with the United States “excellent”, noting the visits by key members of President Joe Biden’s administration, such as then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, to Singapore last year.
Singapore’s greater engagement with the US will not just benefit the Republic but also the region, she said.
For example, she added, by participating actively in the US-initiated Indo-Pacific Economic Framework involving 14 countries, Singapore can work closely with the members to develop an open, inclusive and flexible framework that brings tangible benefits for workers, businesses and communities.
Singapore also continues to deepen collaboration with like-minded partners such as Japan and South Korea, especially in areas such as digitalisation.
It is also looking for more opportunities to grow its relationship with emerging markets such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Islands, said Ms Sim.
Several Members of Parliament, including Nominated MP Raj Joshua Thomas, also raised questions about MFA’s Non-Resident Ambassador (NRA) scheme. There are 46 such ambassadors accredited to 48 countries and four international organisations.
Ms Sim said that NRAs amplify Singapore’s diplomatic outreach and nurture ties with various partners, especially in places where the Republic does not have diplomatic missions.
“Our NRAs are reputable individuals both in the public and private sectors, who have distinguished themselves in the fields of their respective professions and have contributed extensively to the community,” she said, adding that their performance is assessed regularly.
Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) asked if Singapore could increase its contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Ms Sim responded that Singapore makes multiple voluntary financial contributions to a range of UN funds and programmes.