SINGAPORE, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- At the just-concluded meeting of the 17th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), the apex bilateral cooperation platform between China and Singapore, the two sides agreed to leverage on digital economy as one of the several impetuses for bilateral cooperation while forging ahead through COVID-19 and beyond.
The 17th JCBC meeting was co-chaired by Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng and Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday via video link.
With the pandemic accelerating existing structural shifts, the two sides agreed to explore new areas of collaboration, in particular in digital economy and green development, said a press release issued by Singapore's Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday.
"To seize the opportunities of the digital age, both sides agreed to include innovation cooperation as a new pillar of collaboration this year, covering the digital economy, smart cities, and science and technology innovation cooperation," the press release said.
Among the 14 MoUs and agreements announced at the meeting, the MoU on "Single Window" Interconnection Consortium Blockchain will see the establishment of a "single window" interconnection consortium using the decentralized blockchain model.
This pact, inked by custom authorities from both sides, will improve the efficiency of exchanging customs and trade-related information, ultimately reducing costs for traders, Heng was quoted by local media as saying.
In an op-ed published in the Chinese-language paper Lianhe Zaobao on Tuesday, Heng also talked about Singapore's willingness to work jointly with China on the front of digital economy.
"China is a global digital leader, with a digital economy that makes up one third of its GDP. In Southeast Asia, we have one of the fastest-growing digital economies, which is projected to grow to more than 300 billion U.S. dollars by 2025," he wrote.
The digital collaborations between Singapore and China will benefit the companies, and galvanize efforts to integrate ASEAN's digital economy, Heng said.
He cited an example of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor under the framework of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, which is the third inter-governmental project between Singapore and China after the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco City. Despite the ongoing pandemic, a 35 percent increase in cargo flows along the corridor was reported in the first half of 2021 as compared to the same period in 2020.
"Our partnership on the trade corridor focuses on how the physical movement of goods can be complemented by digitalization to promote seamless data flows and paperless documentation," Heng said, adding that this not only optimizes supply chain operations, but can potentially speed up customs clearance, trade financing, insurance, and other related activities.
Digital economy calls for the digital connectivity. China-Singapore (Chongqing) International Dedicated Connectivity (IDC), China's first approved country-to-country dedicated connectivity, was launched in 2019. It provides a dedicated data channel between Singapore and China's Chongqing, offering a better network experience featuring lower latency and packet loss and better network reliability.
At the IDC forum held in Chongqing as part of Smart China Expo (SCE) in August this year, China's Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region announced joining the IDC, signing a proposal on the IDC co-construction, sharing, and cooperation with the Chongqing Big Data Application and Development Administration.
It was disclosed from the forum that nearly 50 companies from both sides have signed IDC leasing contracts or have been conducting cooperation based on the IDC, covering remote healthcare, smart logistics and other fields.
A cloud-based service platform under the IDC was also launched at the forum to facilitate Singapore companies' businesses in China and their cooperation with their Chinese counterparts.
The Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative (SCI), established in 2019, conforms well to Singapore's vision to build a Smart Nation.
According to a press release after the SCI's 2nd Joint Implementation Committee meeting in October this year, four more MoUs in areas like e-invoicing, IoT and blockchain were inked to promote more efficient and trusted cross-border digital connectivity.
Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) Permanent Secretary Yong Ying-I said the signing of the four more MoUs reaffirms the commitment to continue building a bridge of digital connectivity between Singapore and China's Shenzhen, and the SCI serves as a reference for wider digital and smart city cooperation in the Greater Bay Area in southern China and Southeast Asia.
China has made unremitting efforts over the past year to digitally link with the rest of the world. A testament is China's application last month to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, the first of its kind agreement representing a new form of economic engagement and trade in the digital era. The agreement was first signed by Singapore, Chile and New Zealand in June 2020.
China's application would enormously enhance the global attention towards digital economy and help maintain and strengthen its competitiveness in this field, said Pang Yan, co-director of the Business Analytics Center of the National University of Singapore (NUS), in an interview with Xinhua.
Professor Lawrence Loh, director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability, Business School of NUS, told Xinhua that trade is the lifeblood of Singapore's open economy, and the flow of goods and services can be enhanced and facilitated by digital means.
With the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership coming into force on Jan. 1, 2022, it would give rise to a new digital era in the Asia-Pacific region and provide "an additional dimension" for the collaboration between Singapore and China, Loh said. Enditem