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China-Singapore ties intensify: CIIE sparks business insights

Kok Ping Soon

 , Updated 19:18, 08-Nov-2023
China-Singapore ties intensify: CIIE sparks business insights

Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. Kok Ping Soon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the apex business chamber championing the interests of Singapore’s business community in trade, investment, and industrial relations matters. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

In 2023, China-Singapore relations reached a significant milestone with the elevation of the bilateral partnership to an "All-Round High-Quality Future-Oriented Partnership." This showcases the strength of our ties and also emphasizes the importance of our economic cooperation. Singapore businesses are enthusiastic about the upgraded bilateral relationship, anticipating substantial trade and investment opportunities.

Riding on this positive momentum, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) led a delegation of more than 500 senior business representatives from 56 Singaporean companies to participate in the sixth China International Import Expo (CIIE), marking the largest Singapore presence since 2020.

During the opening ceremony of the sixth CIIE, Chinese Premier Li Qiang reiterated China's commitment to opening up its market for imports, promising structural policy and regulatory changes to facilitate business operations. This is particularly important given the current global economic conditions. China's transition from a production-based to a consumption-based economy, especially for sectors such as financial services, education, healthcare, and professional services, is driven by the demands of its growing middle class.

One noteworthy success story from CIIE is that of UGEL, a Singapore beauty and skincare brand, which has participated consecutively for six years. Starting from a humble 9 square meter booth in their first CIIE, UGEL's exhibition area expanded to 72 square meters by the last year.

Through CIIE, they elevated their brand awareness in the Chinese market and established a fruitful partnership with the Chinese online-based duty-free shopping platform, CDF Sunrise Duty Free. This partnership led to UGEL's products being listed on CDF Sunrise Duty Free's online stores, garnering positive responses from consumers and culminating in a significant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) worth approximately 1 million Singapore dollars (about $ 0.74 million) this year.

The success stories at CIIE extend beyond individual companies. Over the past five years, SBF has brought 307 companies to CIIE, with more than 60 percent being returning exhibitors. Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, over 40 companies returned yearly to participate as exhibitors from 2020 to 2023, signing 34 MoUs and reporting sales amounting to almost 23 million Singapore dollars (about $16.99 million) in value. These figures underscore the significance of CIIE as a valuable platform for Singaporean companies to expand their businesses in China.

The Singapore Consumer Goods booth is seen at the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE), Shanghai, China, November 8, 2022. /CFP
The Singapore Consumer Goods booth is seen at the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE), Shanghai, China, November 8, 2022. /CFP

The Singapore Consumer Goods booth is seen at the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE), Shanghai, China, November 8, 2022. /CFP

The SBF plays an important role in facilitating their participation in the Singapore pavilions. Especially for businesses who are new to CIIE, joining a Singapore delegation will give them the chance to participate and benefit from shared resources instead of going as a single company. Among the many other benefits, joining the delegation will allow businesses to make use of networking opportunities to connect with potential partners via platforms such as the Singapore-China Trade and Investment Forum (SCTIF).

The SCTIF is a neutral and high-level business platform facilitating collaborations between Singaporean and Chinese companies on the sidelines during the CIIE. The forum has witnessed, over the years, the signing of strategic MoUs in areas like clean energy cooperation, cross-border data flow, trade interconnectivity, education, food technology, healthcare, sustainable urban development, and supply chain logistics.

These partnerships not only reflect global market trends but also align with the demands of the Chinese market. This year, 13 MoUs, valued at over 87 million Singapore dollars (about $64.27 million), were signed at the SCTIF, highlighting the dedication of businesses from both countries in the promotion of trade liberalization, innovation, and sustainable growth.

At the government level, significant collaborative projects such as the China-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative, China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative, are also shared testament to our mutual commitment in the areas of digital innovation and sustainable development.

Looking ahead, with a stable foundation laid out in policies, we are well-positioned to navigate the uncertainties in the global economy together. With our steadfast commitment to cooperation and trade development, I am confident we will see more remarkable achievements through the collective effort of the businesses from both countries.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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