Singapore to attend Silk Road summit

by Goh Sui Noi

BEIJING (The Straits Times/ANN) - Lawrence Wong to lead team to Belt and Road Forum hosted by China next month

Singapore is sending a delegation to a summit hosted by China next month on its new Silk Road plan.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance, will be leading the delegation to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on May 14 and 15, the Ministry of National Development said.

Singapore has a venture in Chongqing city that has been designated a priority demonstration project for the Belt and Road initiative - the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative, which was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2015.

"Singapore looks forward to deepening our cooperation with China and other countries along the Belt and Road in the areas of infrastructure development, finance and project management, as well as human resource development," the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Mr Xi had proposed the ambitious Belt and Road initiative (BRI) in 2013 to build land and sea trade routes linking Asia, Africa and Europe, based on ancient trade routes. The land route runs through China and Central Asia to Europe. The sea route runs through South-east Asia to South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Under the landmark programme, billions of dollars will be invested in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids in countries along the routes.

The summit next month to drum up international support for the initiative will be attended by 28 heads of state and government. The Asean leaders attending include Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

As an indication of the interest that the BRI is beginning to attract, the European Union's top diplomat, Ms Federica Mogherini, yesterday said projects along the new trade routes must be open to Europeans.

"Obviously, for us it is essential that the opportunities are opened up for all, including Europeans," Reuters quoted her as saying in an address to students at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a press conference on Tuesday said the initiative to promote common development was open to all countries that shared the same goals, rather than an exclusive club.

China expects to sign agreements with about 20 countries and 20 organisations at the forum.